Restless Leg Syndrome May Run in the Family

Scientists looking into one of the more mysterious and little-understood sleep problems now say it may run in the family.  Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a condition that some don’t believe even exists, but sufferers of RLS beg to differ.  Its victims live with an crawling or uncomfortable feeling in their legs and sometimes arms.  The only way to alleviate the symptoms is to move.  While it’s not technically a sleep disorder, its symptoms seem to be stronger at night, and when they hit, it becomes very hard to sleep.

A new study published in May’s Archives of Neurology and covered on the Businessweek web site indicates a possible genetic tendency toward RLS:

“These authors found very stark significant evidence that if you have a sibling or a family member with restless legs syndrome, you have a very high risk of having it,” said Dr. Carl Boethel, assistant professor of internal medicine at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine and medical director of the Sleep Institute at Scott & White in Temple, Texas.

That means if you have a family member and, particularly, a sibling with restless legs syndrome, or RLS, you might want to get screened, he said.

There has long been a suspicion of a familial connection for RLS, but it has never been rigorously studied or its symptoms fully described.  There are treatments for RLS, but many of the up to 10% of the population try to ignore the condition and remain undiagnosed.