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Restless Legs Syndrome Can Have Family Ties
Date:5/10/2010

Risk rises if parent, sibling has the movement disorder, study shows

MONDAY, May 10 (HealthDay News) -- Siblings and family members of people who have restless legs syndrome are also more likely to suffer from the condition, a new report suggests.

The authors of the study, which is published in the May issue of Archives of Neurology, hope the findings will raise awareness of the condition for both physicians and patients.

"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.

Fortunately, said study senior author Dr. Guy A. Rouleau, professor of medicine at the University of Montreal in Quebec, Canada, "many treatments are available for this disease. No one needs to suffer from this without treatment."

Iron deficiency, for instance, can trigger the syndrome, he said. "Treat it with iron and it goes away," Rouleau said. "If it doesn't go away, the same drugs for Parkinson's actually work very well for restless legs syndrome."

Although experts have long seen a familial connection with RLS, there haven't been any really rigorous studies on the subject, nor have there been good descriptions of the symptoms, the authors stated.

"Restless legs syndrome is a very common disorder. Up to 10 percent of individuals have it and, in surveys, the vast majority of people are undiagnosed," said Rouleau.

Although many tend to dismiss the syndrome, symptoms actually can become quite severe, Rouleau said.

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