A recent study in Neurology got a lot of press recently when it suggested that men with restless leg syndrome (RLS) are at a 40% higher risk of death from all causes than similar men without the condition. Dr. Xiang Gao, and his colleagues at Harvard, followed 18,000 men over 8 years and found evidence of increased mortality in men with RLS, even when controlling for other risk factors.
RLS typically causes discomfort in the legs and feet during the night. This discomfort is often relieved by moving the legs, rubbing the feet, or walking around. It often can impact sufferers’ ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. In severe cases, it can affect the arms and can also occur during the day.
There has not been any convincing evidence that it is otherwise dangerous, however. In fact, several previous studies looking at the condition did not show a link to early death.
Because RLS is shown to cause sleep fragmentation and insomnia, it could be argued that the increased mortality risk seen in this study is a result of generally poor sleep, and not RLS per se. Therefore, these results should be interpreted with extreme caution.
This study, if nothing else, indicates the need for further research on this elusive disorder.
Why it happens and what it means are still generally unknown.
It can profoundly impact sleep quality and therefore quality of life.
There are some who do not believe RLS is a legitimate disorder. Those who live with the disorder would disagree.
RLS can be quite debilitating. However, many treatment options exist for RLS and many of the symptoms can be improved.
If you think you may have RLS, seeing a neurologist or a sleep specialist is often the best step.