Restless leg syndrome is linked to a higher risk of stroke, heart disease and kidney disease, according to new research.
The study, conducted by researchers from the Memphis VA Medical Centre, the University of Tennessee Health Science Centre and the University of California, Irvine, highlights that restless leg syndromen, which is considered a complication of diabetes, can have a significant impact on quality of life.
Restless leg syndrome is a neurological and movement disorder. Affecting one in 10 people, it can lead to interrupted sleep or entirely sleepless nights. The exact cause is unknown, but restless leg syndrome has often been linked to diabetes and neuropathy (nerve damage), as well as factors such as kidney failure and anemia.
The study, which involved 3,700 participants, found that those with RLS had a four-fold increased risk of stroke and heart disease . After following them for eight years, they also found a three-fold increase in kidney disease risk.
However, the research only found a correlation between restless leg syndrome and higher risks of stroke, heart disease and kidney disease. It did not find that restless leg syndrome necessarily causes the risk. It could be that restless leg syndrome itself is caused by another health problem which is responsible for stroke, heart disease and kidney disease risk. Or it could be the lack of sleep caused by restless leg syndrome that increases the risk of these diseases, or the depression associated with sleeplessness.
People suffering from restless syndrome are often able to prevent the symptoms through lifestyle changes to diet and exercise.
The findings were published in the Journal of Sleep Research.

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