ED May Be Linked to Restless Legs Syndrome
Study Shows Older Men With RLS More Likely to Have Erectile Dysfunction
WebMD News Archive
The Role of Dopamine
Men with RLS who had five to 14 restless leg episodes a month were 16% more
likely to report ED than men without RLS; men with 15 or more RLS-related
episodes a month were 78% more likely to report having problems getting or
maintaining an erection.
The study appears in the January issue of the American Academy of Sleep
Medicine journal Sleep.
If RLS and ED are related, the chemical dopamine, which helps regulate both
movement and mood, may be the common link.
A shortage of natural dopamine in the brain is believed to play a role in
Parkinson's disease and restless legs syndrome; drugs that activate brain
receptors that produce dopamine are used to treat both conditions.
Low dopamine levels are also thought to be a contributing factor in erectile
Another potential explanation for the observed association may be lack of
People with RLS commonly experience sleep deprivation due to their
involuntary nighttime limb movements, and sleep deprivation is known to
decrease circulating testosterone levels, which can lead to ED.
"Anything that disrupts sleep can cause ED," says David Schulman, MD, MPH,
who directs the Emory Sleep Disorders Laboratory in Atlanta. "I don't think it
is possible in a study like this one to adjust for that."
Schulman says more study is needed to determine if restless legs syndrome
and erectile dysfunction share a common cause.
"I don't look at this as something that will change the way I or anyone else
practices medicine right now," he says.