Ropinirole Medication as Restless Legs Syndrome Treatment

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The prescription medication ropinirole — previously sold under the brand names of Requip and Requip XL — is a commonly prescribed drug used to treat restless legs syndrome. How does ropinirole work to treat restless legs by affecting dopamine and what are some of the most common side effects?

Woman's legs in bed
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How It Works

Ropinirole is a medication that acts on the nervous system at the site of receptors for a neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, called dopamine. Specifically, ropinirole acts to stimulate these receptors.

Uses

Ropinirole is a dopamine receptor stimulant that can be helpful in treating conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and restless legs syndrome (RLS).

You may be prescribed a standard or extended-release (XL) version of the medication. The difference is in how long it takes the body to metabolize the drug and subsequently how many times per day you would need to take it, but the effects are the same.

Who Should Not Use It

There are some situations where ropinirole should be used with caution. You may wish to speak with your healthcare provider if these things apply to you. For example, you should be cautious if you have severe heart disease, low blood pressure, liver or kidney disease, or if you have a serious mental health condition such as psychosis.

If you are using other medications that may depress the central nervous system, ropinirole may not be appropriate, so your healthcare provider should be aware of all the medications you are taking. If you have had changes in your smoking habits, if you have other sleep disorders, or if you are elderly, caution should also be observed.

Side Effects

There are many potential side effects of any drug. Although an individual likely won't experience most side effects associated with the drug — and may indeed not have any of them — some that commonly occur with ropinirole include:

The most common symptoms include:

  • Dizziness, lightheadedness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Drowsiness, sleepiness
  • Fatigue, weakness

Less common symptoms are:

  • Dry mouth, dry cough, sore throat
  • Malaise or feeling unwell
  • Drop in blood pressure with standing
  • Sweating, chills
  • Low or high blood pressure
  • Swelling in legs
  • Loss or change of sensation including numbness, tingling, or prickling
  • Abnormal movements, twitching, twisting
  • Hallucinations (seeing, feeling, hearing things that aren't there)
  • Compulsive behaviors (gambling, binge eating, hypersexuality)

With the use of any drug, there are also risks of serious side effects. These occur more rarely, but may include:

  • Sudden sleep episodes
  • Fainting spells (syncope)
  • Slow heart rate (bradycardia)
  • Chest pain
  • Bloating in face and extremities
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Anxiety, depression
  • Vision changes, blurred or double vision
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Pleural effusion (collection of fluid by the lungs)
  • Pleural fibrosis (scarring of the lungs)
  • Heart valve abnormalities

Safety Precautions

As described above, certain people should use ropinirole with caution or not at all. You should avoid stopping it abruptly and the dose should be tapered off gradually instead. While you are taking the medication, you should have routine skin examinations and your blood pressure should be monitored carefully during any dose adjustments to prevent low blood pressure episodes. The safety of using ropinirole during pregnancy or breastfeeding is unknown. If you experience any difficulties, you should be in close contact with your primary healthcare provider or sleep specialist.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. GlaxoSmithKline. Requip [package insert]. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Published 2007.

  2. MedlinePlus. Ropinirole.

  3. NHS. Ropinirole.

  4. Mylan Pharmaceuticals. Ropinirole [package insert]. DailyMed. Revised July 2021.

By Brandon Peters, MD
Brandon Peters, MD, is a board-certified neurologist and sleep medicine specialist.