Impotence Linked to Restless Legs Syndrome06/15/11
WEDNESDAY, June 15 (HealthDay News) -- Men who struggle with
restless legs syndrome face a higher risk of impotence, a new study
The study, by researchers from Harvard University, builds on
earlier research by the scientists that found that impotence, or
erectile dysfunction, was more common among older men with restless
legs syndrome -- and the more frequent the symptoms of the sleep
disorder the higher the risk of impotence.
For the new study, the researchers started with more than 11,000
men, with an average age of 64 at the start of the trial in 2002,
who did not suffer from impotence, diabetes or arthritis. The
trial, called the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, began with
the men answering a standardized set of health-related
Men were considered to have restless legs syndrome (RLS) if they
met four RLS diagnostic criteria recommended by the International
RLS Study Group and had symptoms more than five times a month.
The researchers went on to identify 1,979 cases of erectile
dysfunction. And men with restless legs syndrome were approximately
50 percent more likely to become impotent, compared to men without
the syndrome, even after the researchers compensated for the
participants' age, weight, whether they smoked or used
antidepressants, as well as the presence of several chronic
Men who experienced restless legs syndrome symptoms up to 14
times a month were 68 percent more likely to struggle with erectile
dysfunction, the study found.
The research was presented at SLEEP 2011, the annual meeting of
the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, in Minneapolis.
Because the study was presented at a medical meeting, the
conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a
In the Jan. 1, 2010, issue of the journal
Sleep, the same researchers reported that erectile dysfunction was more common among older men with restless legs syndrome than those without RLS, and the link was stronger among men with a higher frequency of restless legs symptoms.
"The mechanisms underlying the association between RLS and erectile dysfunction could be caused by hypofunctioning of [the brain chemical] dopamine in the central nervous system, which is associated with both conditions," study lead author Dr. Xiang Gao, an instructor at Harvard Medical School and an associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, said at the time.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, restless
legs syndrome triggers a powerful urge to move the legs, which
become uncomfortable when lying down or sitting. Some people
describe it as a creeping, crawling, tingling or burning sensation.
Moving makes your legs feel better, but the relief doesn't last.
Typically, there is no known cause for restless legs syndrome. In
some cases, it can be caused by a disease or condition, such as
anemia or pregnancy. Caffeine, tobacco and alcohol may make
To learn more about restless leg syndrome, visit the
U.S. National Institutes of Health.
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