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RLS in blood donors

Clinical bottom line

RLS occurs in 15% of male and 25% of female blood donors.


J Ulfberg, B Nyström. Restless legs syndrome in blood donors. Sleep medicine 2004 5: 115-118.


Study subjects were 961 consecutive blood donors in Sweden attending a blood donation unit over 10 months in 2001. None was a first-time blood donor. Almost all (98%) agreed to respond to a questionnaire that included current diagnostic criteria and questions about sleep and daytime somnolence. Frequency of donation and intake of iron tablets over the previous year was also recorded.


Donors had an average age of about 42 years. Women made an average of 1.8 donations a year, and men an average of 2.3 donations a year. The mean haemoglobin levels were 130 g/L in women and 147 g/L in men.

RLS was present (by questionnaire) in 15% of men and 25% of women. Those with RLS had more problems with sleep. There were no differences between donors with or without RLS in terms of iron intake over the previous year, or in haemoglobin. Women but not men had a slight difference in red cell width.


RLS is more prevalent in blood donors than in the general adult population, where the average prevalence is about 6%.