Objective: The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) in the South African population.
Background: RLS is a sleep disorder with a varied global prevalence. Populations of European and North American ancestry exhibit higher RLS prevalence (5-10%) compared to populations of Asian, Hispanic and African descent (0.47-7.2%) however studies on the African continent are limited.
Method: A South African population sample (n=911) completed a questionnaire including demographic information, the Cambridge-Hopkins RLS screening questionnaire the International RLS severity scale (IRLS) the Insomnia Severity Index (ISI) and Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS).
Results: RLS prevalence in South Africa was 3.5% with a mean IRLS score of 16.3 (6.8). However, RLS prevalence did not differ by altitude, race or sex. The RLS group was significantly older than the general sample population (25.5±22.3 years vs. 23±10 years, p=0.003). Roughly 25% of the participants with RLS reported seeking medical treatment for their RLS symptoms. Compared to the general population, the RLS group had greater daytime sleepiness (mean ESS score 5.1 vs 7.4, p<0. 0001) and were more likely to be classified as having insomnia (mean ISI score 15.1 vs. 12.2, p=0.003).
Conclusion: This first study reporting on the South African RLS prevalence indicates that it is low compared to existing global RLS prevalence statistics, but is in agreement with other African studies. The young age of the cohort may have left-skewed the results. Despite a moderate severity of RLS, seeking medical treatment did not seem to be a priority and could reflect different attitudes or barriers to health care and thus decreased awareness of RLS reporting in general.
To cite this abstract in AMA style:J. Bourne, C. Dafkin, S. Kerr. Prevalence of Restless Legs Syndrome in the South African population [abstract]. Mov Disord. 2021; 36 (suppl 1). https://www.mdsabstracts.org/abstract/prevalence-of-restless-legs-syndrome-in-the-south-african-population/. Accessed November 29, 2023.
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