Sunday, May 24, 2009

Restless Legs Syndrome in the “Phantom” Leg of an Amputee

A recent report provides an unusual look at restless legs syndrome. The report describes an amputee who developed RLS in his “phantom” leg.

The 54-year-old man had his left leg amputated 22 years ago. He developed RLS in his remaining leg. Episodes of RLS also occurred to the leg that had been amputated.

Treatment with medication improved his symptoms. Movement of his leg and “phantom movement” of the amputated leg also provided relief.

The authors conclude that this case provides support for the important role of central nervous system dysfunction in the development of RLS.

The drugs most commonly used to treat RLS are “dopamine agonists” such as pramipexole (Mirapex) or ropinirole (Requip). Dopamine is a neurotransmitter. It acts within the brain to help regulate movement.

A 2005
study found that phantom pain often occurs after the amputation of a limb. The study involved 914 people who had a limb amputated. Eighty percent reported experiencing phantom pain in the previous four weeks.

Phantom pain also is a long-term problem. A 2008
study reported that phantom pain and phantom sensation often occur 12 months or more after amputation.

Learn about the genetics of RLS on

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