New Clues to Restless Legs Syndrome in Kids

Iron deficiency and family history linked to problem in children

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THURSDAY, Jan. 6, 2005 (HealthDayNews) -- Iron deficiency and a family history of the disease are the most common risk factors for restless legs syndrome in children, says a Mayo Clinic study.

It also found that nearly 6 percent of children who come to Mayo's sleep clinic have restless legs syndrome.

"Restless legs syndrome is underdiagnosed in kids," Dr. Suresh Kotagal, sleep specialist and chairman of Mayo Clinic pediatric neurology, said in a prepared statement.

"If you look at children with difficulty falling asleep, you'll see a fair number have restless legs. Thus far, there have been sporadic case reports, but nobody has studied a larger group of children, looking at children with insomnia complaints as a whole to see how many had restless legs syndrome," Kotagal said.

He added that growing pains in children may in fact be restless legs syndrome.

"Occasional growing pains are nothing to worry about, but growing pains every night may be restless legs syndrome," Kotagal said.

He and a colleague studied the medical records of 538 children seen by Mayo Clinic's pediatric sleep disorders program. A low level of iron in the blood was found in 83 percent of children identified as having restless legs syndrome. It wasn't apparent whether this iron deficiency was linked to diet or a genetic predisposition to low iron levels.

A family history of restless legs syndrome was identified in 72 percent of children with the condition.

"There seems to be a strong genetic component in restless legs syndrome," Kotagal said.

The study appears in the December issue of the Annals of Neurology.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about restless legs syndrome.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, news release, December 2004

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