Gender Differences in Bothersome Restless Legs Syndrome of Sleep Interview with:

Ambra Stefani, MD Sleep Disorders Clinic Department of Neurology Innsbruck Medical University Innsbruck, Austria

Dr. Stefani

Ambra Stefani, MD
Sleep Disorders Clinic
Department of Neurology
Innsbruck Medical University
Innsbruck, Austria What is the background for this study?

Response: Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a common neurological disorder, affecting up to 10% of the general population in Europe and North America. It is a sensorimotor disorder characterized by unpleasant sensations and an urge to move, mainly involving the legs. These symptoms appear or worsen in the evening/at night and improve with movement.

Background for this study was the idea that there might be gender differences in the phenotypical presentation of RLS, as the pathogenesis of this disease is multifactorial and gender specific factors also play a role. What are the main findings?

Response: We used validated severity scales to evaluate symptoms severity in males and females, and found more severe symptoms in women. As iron deficiency in the central nervous system is known to be present in restless legs syndrome, and is probably one of the major factors in the RLS pathophysiology, we evaluated serum iron levels in our cohort. Ferritin levels in particular are indicative of iron deposits in the body. Women had lower serum ferritin levels than men, and more women had low ferritin levels (below 75 µg/l, the cutoff considered indicative of latent iron deficiency in restless legs syndrome) than men. Periodic leg movements during sleep are present in >80% of patients with RLS. In our cohort, PLMS indices (i.e., PLMS/h) were lower in women than in men. RLS severity as measured by validated scales was worse in women. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Our findings suggest a possible gender difference in phenotypical presentation of RLS, manifesting with predominantly sensory symptoms in women and predominantly motor symptoms in men. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work? 

Response: Future research should further investigate gender-related phenotypical differences in restless legs syndrome symptoms with prospective studies and with larger sample size.

I don’t have any disclosures related to this study. 


J Sleep Res. 2019 Jun 4:e12875. doi: 10.1111/jsr.12875. [Epub ahead of print]

Gender differences in clinical, laboratory and polysomnographic features of restless legs syndrome.

Holzknecht E1, Hochleitner M2, Wenning GK1, Högl B1, Stefani A1. 






The information on is provided for educational purposes only, and is in no way intended to diagnose, cure, or treat any medical or other condition. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health and ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. In addition to all other limitations and disclaimers in this agreement, service provider and its third party providers disclaim any liability or loss in connection with the content provided on this website.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.