The Influence of Antidepressant Medications in Restless Legs Syndrome

Antidepressant Medications

This type of medication helps relieve symptoms of:

  • Mild chronic depression
  • Depression
  • Social anxiety disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Seasonal affective disorder
  • Dysthymia

The goal of an antidepressant medication is to correct the imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain that are believed to be responsible for changes in behavior and mood.

Antidepressant Medications were developed in the 1950s. Its use has become progressively more common in the last 20 years. This medication can be divided into five main types:

1. SNRIs and SSRIs

These are used to treat major depression. SNRIs increase the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine which are the two neurotransmitters in the brain that play a key role in stabilizing mood. SSRIs are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants that are effective in treating depression. However, these have a few side effects than the other antidepressants.

2. Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)

These are used to treat fibromyalgia, depression, and some types of anxiety. TCAs can also be used to help control chronic pain.

3. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

This antidepressant was commonly recommended before the introduction of SNRIs and SSRIs. MAOIs inhibit the action of monoamine oxidase which is a brain enzyme. Monoamine oxidase helps break down serotonin. If fewer serotonins are broken down, there will be more circulating serotonin. Wherein, it leads to more stabilized moods and less anxiety.

4. Noradrenaline and specific serotoninergic antidepressants (NASSAs)

NASSAs are mostly recommended for depression, anxiety disorders, and some personality disorders. However, this medication has some side effects such as blurred vision, constipation, weight gain, and dizziness.

Antidepressant Medications and Restless Legs Syndrome 

Restless Legs Syndrome is usually co-morbid with medical disorders that are cured with antidepressant drugs, such as chronic insomnia disorder, anxiety, depression, and fibromyalgia. Proof from cross-sectional studies and a case report suggests that antidepressants might induce or get worse Restless Legs Syndrome and increase periodic limb movements. A systematic review of the literature has also been studied to recognize and gather all prospective studies that measured the symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome and periodic limb movements following the introduction of an antidepressant.

Eighteen studies were entitled to inclusion. Existing data specify that the onset or exacerbation of Restless Legs Syndrome and an increased occurrence of periodic limb movements are rare following the initiation of an antidepressant.

  • Among the several antidepressants, Mirtazapine can be associated with higher rates of Restless Legs Syndromeand periodic limb movements.
  • One minor study of normal volunteers proposed that Venlafaxine may be linked with an increase in Restless Legs Syndromesymptoms and periodic limb movements. 
  • Amitriptyline, Fluoxetine, and Sertraline seem to raise periodic limb movements that do not disturb sleep and are unlikely to be clinically major.
  • Bupropion may decrease the symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome, at least in the short term.
  • Sedating antidepressants such as Doxepin, Trazodone, and Nefazodone does not appear to worsen periodic limb movements.

The existing evidence is limited by poor study proposals, insufficient use of standardized surveys and mixed populations studied for flexible time. Future research must attempt to cure these shortcomings.

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