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A study on restless leg syndrome (RLS) sheds new light on this common genetic disorder. The researchers found that the relatives of patients with restless legs and the patients themselves began to develop the symptoms at the same age. For the relatives, the syndrome lasted an average of 18 years, said Wayne A. Hening, MD, PhD, who presented the study's findings at the recent Annual Meeting of the Society of Neuroscience.
In the study, 484 individuals in the families of 55 RLS patients and 32 control patients were diagnosed by Dr. Hening, who did not know the identity of their families or the patients' diagnosis. Another expert reviewed the diagnosis, determining symptom character, measures of severity, age of onset, and persistence of the disorder. For the comparison, family members were divided into 3 groups. First- and second-degree relatives of RLS patients and first-degree relatives of control patients (n = 66, n = 37, n = 10, respectively) were compared with the RLS patients (n = 52). The results showed that 11% of the patients reported painful symptoms, compared with 25%, 19%, and 30% of relatives, respectively. Also, 92% of the patients had daily symptoms, compared with 11%, 19%, and 20% of relatives.