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Pregnancy-related hormonal changes linked to increased risk of restless legs syndrome
Date:2/1/2009

Westchester, Ill. A study in the Feb. 1 issue of the journal Sleep shows that the elevation in estradiol levels that occurs during pregnancy is more pronounced in pregnant women with restless legs syndrome (RLS) than in controls.

During the last trimester of pregnancy, levels of the estrogenic steroid hormone estradiol were 34,211 pg/mL in women with RLS and 25,475 pg/mL in healthy controls. At three months postpartum, estradiol levels had dropped to 30.73 pg/mL in the RLS group and 94.92 pg/mL in controls. Other hormone levels did not differ significantly between the study groups.

According to the authors the data strongly suggest that estrogens play an important role in RLS during pregnancy. The study also supports previous reports of high RLS incidence in the last trimester of pregnancy when estradiol is maximally elevated.

"Our findings strongly support the concept that neuroactive hormones play a relevant pathophysiological role in RLS," said principal investigator Thomas Pollmacher, MD, director of the Center for Medical Health at Klinikum Ingolstadt and professor of psychiatry at Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, Germany. "This information will increase the understanding of RLS in pregnancy and will assist in the development of specific therapeutic approaches."

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine describes RLS as a sleep-related movement disorder that involves an almost irresistible urge to move the legs at night. This urge tends to be accompanied by unusual feelings or sensations, called "paresthesias," that occur deep in the legs. These uncomfortable sensations often are described as a burning, tingling, prickling or jittery feeling. RLS can profoundly disturb a person's ability to go to sleep or return to sleep after an awakening.

The AASM reports that RLS occurs 1.5 to two times more often in women than in men. Eighty percent to 90 percent of people with RLS also experience perio
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Contact: Kelly Wagner
kwagner@aasmnet.org
708-492-0930
American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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