Study: Restless Leg Syndrome runs in the family

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A new study from Canadian researchers contributes to evidence suggesting that Restless Leg Syndrome — the condition characterized by extreme discomfort in the legs when sitting or lying down — is hereditary. Researchers studied 671 people diagnosed with restless leg syndrome, and then asked their family members to participate in diagnostic interviews. After speaking with the patients and 479 family members, researchers found that siblings of people with the condition were 3.6 times more likely to develop Restless Leg Syndrome themselves.

The study also found that up to 15% of people living in Quebec suffer from Restless Leg Syndrome (an estimate 10% of Americans suffer from the disorder.) In families in which one person was diagnosed with the condition, it also appeared in more than three quarters (77%) of other family members. By age 60, brothers and sisters of patients with Restless Leg Syndrome were 3.6 times more likely to develop the condition themselves, and children of patients with the disorder were 1.8 times more likely to be diagnosed with Restless Leg Syndrome by age 40.

Researchers also noted that Restless Leg Syndrome appeared to be more common among female family members, and, in keeping with previous studies, was particularly common among those who’d had multiple pregnancies or had iron deficiency. The findings contribute to a growing understanding of the condition, which can cause insomnia and long-term pain and discomfort. Previous research has identified genes associated with the disorder, and authors of this latest study say the hereditary nature of the condition is likely due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.