Research finds that erectile dysfunction was more common in older men with restless leg syndrome (RLS) than in those without RLS, and the magnitude of this association increased with a higher frequency of RLS symptoms.

Results show that erectile dysfunction was 16% more likely in men with RLS symptoms that occur five to 14 times per month (odds ratio of 1.16) and 78% more likely in men whose RLS symptoms occur 15 or more times per month (OR = 1.78). The associations were independent of age, body mass index, use of antidepressants, anxiety, and other possible risk factors for RLS. Fifty-three percent of RLS patients and 40% of participants without RLS reported having erectile dysfunction, which was defined as a poor or very poor ability to have and maintain an erection sufficient for intercourse.

The results suggest it is likely that the two disorders share common mechanisms, said lead author Xiang Gao, MD, PhD, instructor at Harvard Medical School, associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and research scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

"The mechanisms underlying the association between RLS and erectile dysfunction could be caused by hypofunctioning of dopamine in the central nervous system, which is associated with both conditions," said Gao.

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