Research: restless leg syndrome

Li Y et al. Association of multiple sclerosis with restless legs syndrome and other sleep disorders in women.Neurology. 2012 Apr 25. [Epub ahead of print]

OBJECTIVE: To assess the association of MS with concurrent restless legs syndrome (RLS) and daytime sleepiness. We also prospectively examined whether women with MS had an increased risk of developing RLS during 4 years of follow-up.

METHODS: The main analysis was based on a cross-sectional study of 65,544 women (aged 41-58 years) free of diabetes, arthritis, and pregnancy, who were participating in the Nurses’ Health Study II cohort. Participants were considered to have RLS if they met 4 RLS diagnostic criteria recommended by the International Restless Leg Syndrome Study Group and had restless legs ≥5 times/month. MS was self-reported and confirmed by medical record review.

RESULTS: Among women with MS, the prevalence of RLS and severe RLS (15+ times/month) were 15.5% and 9.9% in 2005, respectively, relative to 6.4% and 2.6% among women without MS. After adjustment for potential confounders and the presence of other sleep disorders, women with MS had a higher likelihood of having RLS (odds ratio [OR] = 2.72, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.89-3.93), severe RLS (OR = 4.12, 95% CI 2.65-6.42), and daily daytime sleepiness (OR = 2.11, 95% CI 1.31-3.42) compared with women without MS. Among the 172 women who had MS and were free of RLS in 2005, 9 developed RLS (5.2%) during a 4-year period and all had severe RLS. The adjusted relative risk of severe RLS was 3.58 (95% CI 1.53-8.35), comparing women with MS at baseline with those without MS.

CONCLUSION: Women with MS had a significantly higher prevalence of RLS and daytime sleepiness and an increased risk of developing RLS in the future.

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) or Willis-Ekbom disease is characterized by an irresistible urge to move one’s body to stop uncomfortable or odd sensations. It most commonly affects the legs.

“RLS is a common problem and often results in loss of sleep and the knock-on effects of day time tiredness and fatigue. Also this makes MS cognitive impairment worse. I need to start an MS fatigue clinic to address all these problems. A small improvement in sleep hygiene may make a massive difference to day-time functioning.”

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