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People with restless leg syndrome suffer from near-constant, unpleasant sensations in their lower limbs, making sleep difficult to obtain. New research from Pennsylvania State University suggests that the risk of suicide and self-harm increases nearly three-fold (file)

Restless leg syndrome patients run an almost three-fold greater risk of suicide and self-harm, the study finds

  • One in 10 Americans and one in 20 Britons has restless legs syndrome
  • The chronic neurological disorder is linked to discomfort and insomnia
  • A Penn State University study found that suicide is 2.7 times more common in people diagnosed with restless legs
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People with restless leg syndrome have an almost threefold higher risk of suicide, according to new research.

Doctors must pay special attention to the mental health of tortured patients, scientists warn.

The common neurological disorder causes an irresistible urge to move – especially at night – and is often associated with unpleasant sensations in the lower limbs.

It occurs in one in 20 adults in the UK and around one in 10 in the US – which in many cases leads to severe sleep deprivation.

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The new Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) study of nearly 170,000 people found that people with restless leg syndrome (RLS) were 2.7 times more likely to take their lives or self-harm.

People with restless leg syndrome suffer from near-constant, unpleasant sensations in their lower limbs, making sleep difficult to obtain. New research from Pennsylvania State University suggests that the risk of suicide and self-harm increases nearly three-fold (file)

People with restless leg syndrome suffer from near-constant, unpleasant sensations in their lower limbs, making sleep difficult to obtain. New research from Pennsylvania State University suggests that the risk of suicide and self-harm increases nearly three-fold (file)

& # 39; It suggests that restless leg syndrome is not only related to physical disorders, but also to mental health, & # 39; said the corresponding author Dr. Xiang Gao, an epidemiologist at Penn State University.

& # 39; And because RLS is not diagnosed enough and the number of suicides is increasing, this connection is becoming increasingly important.

& # 39; Doctors may want to be cautious when screening patients for both RLS and suicide risk. & # 39;

In the US, the number of suicides has risen by 30 percent since the turn of the century. In the UK, it is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45.

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Dr. Gao said: & # 39; Suicide is a global health problem and is associated with multiple risk factors, including male gender, family history of suicide, setback in children, alcohol abuse, psychiatric disorders and sleep problems.

"Given that sleep disorders and depression are very concurrent in individuals with RLS, the plausible part of the increased total risk of death associated with RLS may be driven by an increased risk of suicide death."

WHAT IS RESTLESS LEG SYNDROME?

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) – the most common name for Willis-Ekbom's disease – is a poorly understood neurological disorder.

It affects around one in 10 adults in the US and one in 20 in the UK.

People with RLS have an almost constant, irresistible urge to move their legs.

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However, it is not just restlessness – that urge is often caused by unpleasant and uncomfortable sensations.

They may feel that their skin is creeping, itching or experiencing electrical zaps and beats.

Typically the invasive feelings come & # 39; in the evening or & # 39; before night.

As a result, many RLS patients also have difficulty sleeping and studies suggest that they have a higher rate of depression, high blood pressure, and heart attacks.

Although treatments can relieve some symptoms, the chronic condition is incurable.

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The condition usually occurs in families and is more common in men, although some women only develop the condition during pregnancy.

Nobody knows what causes RLS, but risk factors are other nerve, kidney and spinal cord problems and iron deficiency.

Dr. Gao and colleagues said RLS affects approximately five percent of the US population. It can be caused by low levels of the feel-good chemical dopamine in the brain – which also controls movement.

Some studies have associated it with high blood pressure, heart attacks and rising death rates, and others with depression and suicidal thoughts.

Prof. Gao said: & # 39; For more than 10 years I wanted to investigate a possible link between RLS and suicide.

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& # 39; But because both RLS and suicide rates are low from a data perspective, this was not possible.

& # 39; But when I moved here to Penn State, I was given access to a data set with over 200 million people, so it gave us the power to finally test this hypothesis. & # 39;

His team compared health information about privately insured Americans between 2006 and 2014 – 24,179 of them were diagnosed with RLS and 145,194 who did not.

The study, published in JAMA Network Open, showed that the former group was 270 percent more likely to commit suicide or self-harm.

Neither she nor the control set had a history of behavior before tracking began.

The risk did not decrease even after taking into account depression, sleep disorders and common chronic diseases such as diabetes.

Dr. co-author Muzi Na, an expert in health promotion and disease prevention in Penn State, added: & # 39; After checking for these factors, we still did not see the association decline, meaning that RLS can still be an independent variable that contributes suicide and suicide. damage.

& # 39; We still do not know the exact reason, but our results may help shape future research to find out more about the mechanism. & # 39;

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