Restless Legs Syndrome Ups Risk of Cerebral Microvascular Disease

CHICAGO — Restless legs syndrome is associated with a greater risk of hypertension and heart disease, and now new research, presented at the American Neurological Association 2015 Annual Meeting in Chicago, indicates that disease duration also increases the likelihood of cerebral microvascular disease.

Arthur S. Walters, MD, of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and colleagues explored the risk factors for and prevalence of cerebral microvascular disease among 51 patients with restless legs syndrome (33 female, 18 male) and 35 control subjects (27 female, 8 male). Subjects were not included if they had prior history of diabetes, heart disease, clinical stroke, blood pressure >150/100, cholesterol >250, or sleep apnea. Brain MRI was conducted for all participants.

A statistically significant increase of both cerebral microvascular disease area and volume was observed in patients with restless legs syndrome who had the disease for >10 years with respect to both controls and those with restless legs syndrome for <10 years. Disease duration was an independent predictor of microvascular disease (P<0.0016 for area, P<0.016 for volume), however insomnia was found to have no significant effect.

Overall, duration of restless legs syndrome symptoms correlated with presence of cerebral microvascular disease on MRI, suggesting that ongoing disease burden increases the risk for developing cerebral microvascular disease.


  1. Walters AS et al. Abstract M808. Presented at: American Neurological Association Annual Meeting 2015. September 27-29, 2015; Chicago.