Restless legs syndrome is a common problem in children 8 years of age and older in the United States and the United Kingdom, according to a new report from an international team of researchers.
Nearly 2 percent of children aged 8 to 17 are affected, and a significant proportion of those experience moderate to severe symptoms, including sleep disturbance and negative moods. The report appears in the August issue of the journal Pediatrics.
This study suggests that restless legs syndrome is common and troublesome in children and adolescents, occurring more frequently than diabetes and epilepsy, said principal investigator Daniel Picchietti, a professor of pediatrics in the University of Illinois College of Medicine and a pediatrician and sleep medicine specialist with the Carle Clinic Association and Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, Ill.
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurological sleep disorder characterized by sensations in the legs that create an urge to move. Symptoms are typically worse at night and during rest. RLS is closely associated with another condition, periodic limb movement disorder, in which a persons legs jerk during sleep. Some people with periodic limb movement disorder also have RLS. Others lack the sensations in the legs that typify RLS.
Most of what is known about restless legs syndrome comes from research on adults. The new analysis is the first population-based prevalence study of RLS in children, and it is the first to use specific pediatric diagnostic criteria. The research team collected detailed data from 10,523 families in the U.S. and U.K.
The new study affirmed that there is a strong genetic component to RLS, Picchietti said. More than 70 percent of the children with RLS had at least one parent with the condition. In 16 percent of the affected children, both parents had RLS symptoms.
Two recent studies appearing in July in the New England Journal of Medicine and in Nat
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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign