A recent study made by researchers at Harvard University indicates that men who experience restless legs syndrome may also be at a higher risk of impotence. The results of the study was built on earlier research that erectile dysfunction and impotence is more common among older men who suffer from restless legs syndrome. It seems that the more frequent the symptoms of the sleep disorder show, the higher the risk of impotence.
Restless legs syndrome is a sleep disorder characterized by uncontrollable leg movements during sleep. Although it may be normal for people to jerk their leg muscles during sleep, this disorder is noted for the frequency of the leg movements. Although the cause of this disorder remains unknown, it is seen as more common in women as well as for people who are over 65 years old.
The recent study involved participants from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. The researchers began with around 11,000 men with an average age of 64 years old at the trial onset in 2002. The participants did not suffer from impotence, diabetes or arthritis at the onset of the study. The participants were also made to answer a standard set of health-related questions.
The researchers identified participants with restless legs syndrome based on the four RLS diagnostic criteria recommended by the International RLS Study Group. This included men having shown symptoms more than 5 times in a month. The researchers were also able to identify 1,979 cases of erectile dysfunction.
The researchers discovered that the men who suffer from restless legs syndrome were 50 percent more likely to become impotent compared to the men who did not have the said sleep disorder. Men who experience RLS symptoms up to 14 times in a month were shown have a 68 percent likelihood of suffering from erectile dysfunction.
According to Dr. Xiang Gao, an instructor at the Harvard Medical School and an associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and the lead author of the study, “The mechanisms underlying the association between RLS and erectile dysfunction could be caused by hypofunctioning of [the brain chemical] dopamine in the central nervous system, which is associated with both conditions.”
The results of the study was presented at SLEEP 2011, the annual meeting conducted by the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, which was held in Minneapolis.