Restless leg syndrome – research story in the ‘Daily Mail’, 15 July 2011

July 15, 2011

From the ‘Daily Mail', 15 July 2011 (story by David Derbyshire).

Restless leg syndrome may be genetic as scientists discover hereditary link

Scientists have discovered two faulty genes that causes restless leg syndrome, the annoying condition that affects five million Britons.

The discovery sheds light on the origins of one of the most common nerve disorders, and could pave the way for new drugs to help sufferers.

Around one in 10 adults experiences restless leg syndrome at some point in their life. Sufferers experience unpleasant sensations in their legs which can only be eased by moving, walking or jiggling.

Now a team of scientists from Germany, Canada and the US have found two genetic mutations linked to the disease.

People who inherited the genetic mutations are much more likely to develop restless leg syndrome, the researchers report in the journal PLoS Genetics.

The new study looked at the genetic make-up of 4,867 patients with the condition and compared them to more than 7,000 healthy people.

The scientists found two new areas on the genome which play a role in the disease. One area is within a gene involved in controlling brain activity called TOX3.

TOX3 is involved in protecting brain cells – but its link to restless leg syndrome is still unknown. However, the discoveries could lead to new treatments for the condition.

Restless leg syndrome is one of the UK’s most common nerve diseases.

The tingling, prickling and numbness in the legs occur mainly in the evening or at night when the body is resting and can only be eased by moving or walking around.

People with the condition suffer sleeping disorders and tiredness. In extreme cases it can lead to depression.

The changes of developing restless leg syndrome goes up with age. Around one in 10 people over the age of 65 are sufferers.

However, it can also strike children.

The condition first described in 1945 by Swedish nerve specialist Karl-Axel Ekbom. As a result, RLS is sometimes known as Ekbom syndrome.

It is thought to be linked to an imbalance of the brain’s “reward” chemical messenger dopamine.

Women are more likely to be affected then men with many developing restless legs in the last few weeks of pregnancy. In children, the condition can be wrongly diagnosed as ‘growing pains'. The symptoms usually worsen as people get older.

Before the latest study, the condition was known to run in families.

According to NHS Choices, the symptoms can be eased by avoiding caffeine and alcohol. Gentle exercise before bedtime can also stretch the muscles and reduce symptoms.

Full text of study in PLos Genetics, 14 July 2011

4 thoughts on “Restless leg syndrome – research story in the ‘Daily Mail’, 15 July 2011”

  1. Not surprising news, my mother, aunt and I all suffer from RLS. Until recently I was taking ropinirole, but the side effects were as bad as the problem.

  2. “..could pave the way for new drugs to help sufferers.”
    We’ve been hearing that for years in relation to all sorts of conditions. Have any new treatments come from any such
    The usual result of the discovery of a ‘new’ gene or two is that the scientist utter their favourite mantra: We need more research.
    Has anyone eve heard a scientist say, “NO more research is needed”?!

    P.S. Why was ‘favourite’ underlined as wrongly spelled?

  3. I’m not surprised there’s a genetic element. It’s also in my family.
    What strikes me in this article is that it’s accepted as a ‘nerve condition’, ie neurological. I’m sure this is likely to be correct – I wonder what the research evidence is. As someone who suffers from both RLS and ME, I wonder how something like RLS can be so straightforwardly accepted as neurological, when we have to fight such battles to get ME recognised in this way. Just imagine what would have happened if the psychiatrists had got hold of RLS, and were now telling us to use CBT to help us with our wrong thinking!!!

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