Legs That Won't Quit

Fibromyalgia patients more likely to suffer Restless Leg Syndrome

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Adults with fibromyalgia are more likely to experience restless legs syndrome (RLS), according to a new study, which suggests treatment for RLS may improve sleep and quality of life for these patients.

Researchers from Loyola University Medical Center compared 172 individuals with fibromyalgia (mean age of 50, 93 percent female) to 63 healthy controls who had an average age of 41 years. The prevalence of RLS in fibromyalgia patients at 33 percent was about 10 times higher than those in the control group (3.1 percent). After factoring for age, gender and ethnicity, patients with fibromyalgia were still 11 times more likely to have or develop RLS. Sleep problems were also more severe among fibromyalgia patients.

Fibromyalgia is characterized by chronic, widespread body pain thought to be caused by overactive nerves. It is most commonly diagnosed in women who are middle aged and older, though the condition affects an estimated five million Americans age 18 and older.

Both fibromyalgia and RLS present similar sensory abnormalities, including a similar pathophysiology of the system that regulates the neurotransmitter dopamine.

RLS can result as a side effect of antidepressants, which are commonly prescribed for fibromyalgia patients. Exercise has been shown to improve symptoms of both conditions.

The study concluded treating RLS could improve sleep for fibromyalgia patients.

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Review Date: 
January 18, 2011
Last Updated:
October 7, 2013