A new study shows that older men with restless legs syndrome may be more likely to have erectile dysfunction. The results were published in the Jan. 1 issue of the journal Sleep.
The study involved 23,119 men who were health professionals. They had an average age of 69 years.
Results show that men who reported having RLS symptoms 15 times or more per month were 78 percent more likely to have erectile dysfunction. They had a “poor or very poor” ability to have and maintain an erection for sexual intercourse.
About four percent of participants had RLS. Fifty-three percent of men with RLS reported having erectile dysfunction.
The authors suggested that the two disorders may share common mechanisms. They suspect that both disorders may involve low levels of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical that acts as a neurotransmitter.
They also noted that the association between RLS and erectile dysfunction could be related in part to other sleep disorders that co-occur with RLS. For example obstructive sleep apnea may decrease circulating testosterone levels.
The NIDDK reports that erectile dysfunction often is caused by a disease or surgery. It also can be a side effect of a medication.
RLS involves an intense urge to move the legs. The intensity of this urge increases at night and as you lie or sit still. It is relieved only by walking or moving the legs.
RLS often involves other burning, prickly, itching or tingling sensations in the legs. Symptoms of RLS tend to become more intense and last longer over time.
RLS can have a severe effect on your sleep. It may prevent you from falling asleep. It also may keep you from returning to sleep if you wake up during the night.
Read more about RLS. Learn about the genetics of RLS on SleepEducation.com.