Restless legs syndrome (RLS) and Parkinson disease (PD) are common neurological conditions that respond to dopaminergic therapy. To our knowledge, the relationship between the two has not been thoroughly explored.
We consecutively queried 303 patients with PD seen in our clinic for the presence of RLS symptoms, and evaluated their condition with the Epworth Sleepiness Scale and other demographic and sleep measures. We then looked for predictors of RLS in these patients with PD. We also compared a larger group of patients with PD/RLS with a group of patients with RLS alone.
Of 303 patients with PD, 63 (20.8%) had symptoms of RLS. Neither PD patient demographics nor PD treatments could reliably predict the development of RLS symptoms; however, lower serum ferritin levels were associated with RLS symptoms in our patients with PD (P = .01). In 54 (68%) of the 79 total patients with PD/RLS (including additional patients with PD/RLS seen in the clinic) with reliable age-at-onset data, the PD symptoms preceded the RLS symptoms (χ2 test, P<.001). Compared with patients with idiopathic RLS (N = 146), patients with PD/RLS (N = 109) were older at RLS onset (P<.001), were less likely to have a family history of RLS (P<.001), and had lower serum ferritin levels (P = .01).
Symptoms of RLS are common in patients with PD; however, except in patients with a family history of RLS, they seem to reflect a secondary phenomenon, perhaps in relation with lower ferritin levels. There is no evidence that RLS symptoms early in life predispose to the subsequent development of PD.