Dopamine Precursors and Agonists for Restless Legs Syndrome
How It Works
Dopamine precursors are drugs that the brain converts to dopamine, a chemical (neurotransmitter) involved in controlling movement. Dopamine is involved in movement, sleep, emotions, alertness, and addictive behavior.
Dopamine agonists directly stimulate nerves in the brain that are not naturally being stimulated by dopamine.
Why It Is Used
These medicines are generally prescribed to treat Parkinson's disease. But there seems to be a relationship between restless legs syndrome and abnormalities in how the body produces or uses dopamine. A doctor may prescribe medicine as treatment for continuous symptoms that frequently disturb sleep, in which case dopamine agonists are usually the first choice.
How Well It Works
Levodopa and dopamine agonists improve symptoms of restless legs better than a placebo. They also reduce periodic limb movements. People who took dopamine agonists or levodopa said they slept better and that their quality of life was better.1
For some people, these medicines seem to help at first. But later they seem to make symptoms worse by a process called augmentation. Because this undesired outcome is most associated with regular use of levodopa, most patients who require daily medicine will need a dopamine agonist.
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
Call your doctor if you have:
Common side effects of this medicine include:
Call your doctor right away if you have:
Common side effects of these medicines include:
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
Problems related to the dosing of dopamine precursors and agonists can occur, such as:
Dopamine agonists and levodopa may cause impulse-control disorders in some people. Impulse-control disorders include uncontrollable or problem gambling, sexual behavior, and shopping. Binge eating is another example.
Dopamine agonists are more likely than levodopa to cause impulse-control disorders. But your risk is even higher if you take both a dopamine agonist and levodopa. If you are concerned about taking these medicines because of this risk, talk with your doctor.
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
Advice for women
If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
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