By Alan Mozes
FRIDAY, June 27 (HealthDay News) -- People with multiple sclerosis are at a greater risk than the general population for developing restless legs syndrome (RLS), a new Italian study suggests.
"This is important, because RLS is one of the symptoms that can seriously affect an MS patient's quality of life, even more than a lot of other problems MS patients face," said lead researcher Dr. Giovanni Cossu, a neurologist at Brudzu Hospital in Cagliari, Italy. "Therapies for RLS [such as] dopamine agonists are normally very effective and can restore this quality of life, " he added.
Cossu and his colleagues were expected to present their findings this week at the Movement Disorder Society's International Congress of Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders, in Chicago.
The authors delved into a possible association between MS and RLS by analyzing questionnaires completed by a little more than 200 Italian male and female MS patients throughout 2007, as well as a similar number of people without MS.
Those indicating symptoms of possible RLS were further examined by a neurologist.
According to the study, almost 15 percent of the MS patients were diagnosed with RSL, while less than 3 percent of those without MS had the syndrome.
Based on these results, MS patients run a significantly higher risk for RSL than the general population, the team concluded. They said MS should be "definitively" noted as being highly associated with RSL.
Cossu said that further research -- focused on crunching MRI and neurological data -- is ongoing in order to "better define the clinical profile of those MS patients who are also likely candidates for RLS."
However, Dr. John Richert, executive vice president of research and clinical programs with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, New York City, expressed some reservations about the findings.
"A lot of people with MS have involuntary movement of the legs, related to spasticity and jerks during sleep," he observed. "So, my question would be whether or not there is any confusion on the part of the investigators as to what is actually RSL versus what is the kind of abnormal movement that MS patients can have that is not RSL? And so, it would be important to see this study replicated by MS experts to be sure what were looking at."
"But if we assume that this finding is, in fact, accurate, then the obvious message would be that health care professionals taking care of patients with MS need to be alert to the possibility that their patients may be experiencing symptoms of RSL," added Richert. "And be ready to apply the appropriate therapeutic options."
There's more on restless legs syndrome at the RLS Foundation.