They concluded that this degree of elevation, occurring frequently over time, could lead to heart and blood vessel damage. Their findings are published in the April 10 issue of the journal Neurology.
The study did not include RLS patients with heart disease, but these patients may have the greatest risk, Lanfranchi says.
“Blood pressure elevations during the night could be very harmful to the already damaged hearts of these patients,” she says. “Clinicians taking care of these patients need to be aware of this.”
Can RLS Drugs Lower Risk?
All agree that more research is needed to confirm the findings and to determine if medications used to treat RLS can reduce the potential risk.
Sleep disorders expert Merrill Mitler, PhD, tells WebMD that this is unlikely because the available drug treatments have only a modest impact on symptoms.
Mitler is program director for the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
“There are certainly no treatments that can make restless leg go away,” he says. “But there are behavioral and conceptual approaches that can help patients learn to live with this condition.”
He adds that the new study, while small, makes a strong case for a link between restless legs syndrome and heart disease.
But University of Maryland School of Medicine neurology professor William J. Weiner, MD, says it will take much more research to convince him.
Weiner is the director of the Maryland Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center in Baltimore.
“This study is an interesting beginning, but this was a very small study and these patients weren’t followed to see if they developed heart disease,” he tells WebMD. “The conclusion that these blood pressure fluctuations contribute to heart disease is a very big leap.”