Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a chronic neurological condition that causes discomfort in the legs in the evening before sleep. Studies have linked RLS with certain cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure. This article is about a study that examined RLS in veterans. Specifically, the researchers studied the relationship between RLS and stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, and mortality rate. The researchers compared about 3700 veterans with and without RLS. Results showed higher amounts of stroke, coronary heart disease, chronic kidney disease, and mortality in those that had RLS compared to those that did not.
The results are not surprising. And as the article points out, the findings don't show that RLS causes strokes, heart disease, or kidney disease. One issue is whether the RLS in these veterans was primary, or secondary to another disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA can significantly worsen RLS, meaning that it may be the OSA that is increasing the incidence of cardiovascular or kidney disease - not necessarily the RLS. Also, RLS is known to be common in patients with chronic kidney disease, especially those on dialysis. More studies are needed to tease out the relationship between RLS and these other disorders.