According to a new research, men who experience restless legs syndrome -RLS- may have a higher risk of dying earlier.

The disorder is characterized by an irresistible urge to move the legs and often causes leg sensations of burning, creeping, and tugging, which are usually worse at night.

The study conducted by Xiang Gao, MD, PhD, with Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School and the Channing division of network medicine, Brigham and Women`s Hospital in Boston highlights the importance of recognizing this common but under diagnosed disease.

The study found that men with restless legs syndrome (RLS)were nearly 40 percent more likely to die over the eight-year study, compared to men without RLS. When the researchers excluded from their analysis men with major chronic conditions such as cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure, those with RLS were 92 percent more likely to die over the study period.

However, the study shows an association, not a cause-and-effect link between having RLS and an increased risk of dying, and the researchers said that it is not known how RLS might increase the mortality risk. In the study, deaths among men with RLS were frequently due to respiratory disease, endocrine disease, metabolic disease and immunologic disorders.

In the study, researchers looked at 18,425 men, whose average age was 67, including 700 who were diagnosed with RLS. During an eight-year follow-up, 2,765 of the men died. Among the men with RLS, 25 percent died during the study, compared with 15 percent of those who did not have RLS.

The researchers also found that men with RLS were more likely to use antidepressant drugs, had more insomnia complaints, and were more likely to have high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and Parkinson’s disease. However, controlling for these factors didn’t change the results, they said.

The link between RLS and higher risk of death was not related to other common risk factors such as smoking, older age, low physical activity and lack of sleep. Moreover, men who had conditions such as high blood pressure, cancer or insomnia, had a further increased risk of death if they had RLS too, according to the study.

“We found that the increased risk was not associated with the usual known risk factors, such as older age, being overweight, lack of sleep, smoking, being physically inactive and having an unhealthy diet,” Gao said.

The author added that the increased mortality in RLS was more frequently associated with respiratory disease, endocrine disease, nutritional/metabolic disease and immunological disorders.

The study was published in the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

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