A new study in the journal Sleep suggests that patients with restless legs syndrome (RLS) may be at increased risk for hypertension, heart disease, and stroke. Cerebral small vessel disease (SVD) is a known risk factor for clinical stroke. This study evaluated silent cerebral SVD by MRI in patients with RLS who had no history of stroke or known stroke risk factors.
They examined patients with RLS in two groups: those with RLS less than 10 years, and those with RLS for more than 10 years. They also had a control group of subjects with no RLS.
The results were striking. Those with long-lasting RLS and its accompanying periodic limb movements in sleep are at significant risk for silent SVD and perhaps for the development of clinical stroke.
The term cerebral small vessel disease refers to a group of pathological processes that affect the small blood vessels of the brain. Cerebral small vessel disease is most commonly related to aging and hypertension, and can lead to vascular dementia.
Common symptoms of SVD are anxious mood, insomnia, fatigue, depressed mood, and pain.
If you’ve had RLS for more than a year, it’s time to talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have regarding SVD, especially if you have had RLS for several years.