In Parkinson’s disease patients, movement disorder called leg motor restlessness is more likely than restless leg syndrome. Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a sleep and movement disorder which is characterized by the urge to move one’s legs in order to stop uncomfortable sensations. This sensation often occurs when at rest, so it usually plagues patients during sleeping hours.
As both RLS and Parkinson’s disease respond to dopamine treatments, researchers wanted to investigate the connection between the two disorders. Some studies have shown that Parkinson’s patients are more likely to suffer from RLS, compared to people without Parkinson’s disease. But those previous studies have looked at patients with advanced Parkinson’s disease who have taken dopamine medications for several years.
The researchers found that RLS was not significantly common in Parkinson’s patients, but patients did have triple the risk of having motor restlessness, compared to those without Parkinson’s disease.
Study author Michaela D. Gjerstad explained, “This finding could possibly be because people who have not yet taken dopamine for their Parkinson’s disease have a dopamine deficiency in their brains, which is similar to when people develop motor restlessness after taking antipsychotic drugs that block dopamine in the brain.”
John Morgan wrote in an accompanying editorial, “Time will tell whether the majority of these people with leg motor restlessness will go on to develop restless legs syndrome, or whether the restlessness improves after they start taking dopamine drugs. Further study of this group of people will be quite interesting.”
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder which can cause tremors and changes to a person’s motor skills. Other complications can arise from Parkinson’s disease including:
Thinking difficulties: Cognitive impairments can occur in the latter stages of Parkinson’s disease and may not respond well to medications.
Depression and emotional changes: Parkinson’s patients may experience depression, treatment will not only ease depression itself, but also boost overall outcomes of Parkinson’s.
Swallowing problems: Saliva can accumulate as a result of slowed swallowing. As the disease progresses, swallowing problems can worsen.
Sleep problems and sleep disorders: Patients may wake up frequently or wake up early, which can be tied to rapid eye movement disorders.
Bladder problems: Patients may experience problems controlling urine or have difficulty urinating.
Constipation: A slow digestive tract can contribute to constipation in Parkinson’s disease.
Changes to blood pressure: Patients often experience low blood pressure when getting up, known as orthostatic hypotension.
Smell dysfunction: Sense of smell may become affected, as the disease progresses.
Fatigue: Energy can become depleted due to an unknown cause.
Pain: Pain may be experienced in specific areas of the body.
Sexual dysfunction: A decrease in sexual desire and function is seen through the disease progression.