Analysis of familial and sporadic restless legs syndrome in age of onset, gender, and severity features

J Neurol. 2004 Nov;251(11):1398-401. doi: 10.1007/s00415-004-0552-7.


Restless Legs Syndrome is characterized by the irresistible, often indescribable unpleasant urge to move the limbs while resting. It has an estimated prevalence of approximately 29.3 % in US private practice. Restless Legs Syndrome often has a familial component; whether the familial and non-familial forms differ in terms of clinical features has previously been investigated, with the only significant factor emerging as younger age at onset in familial cases. Our study further explores a possible underlying difference between familial and sporadic forms of RLS by comparing familial RLS with sporadic RLS in terms of demographic and clinical features including subject gender, age of onset, and severity measures based an the IRLSSG severity scale. Both gender and family history are significant predictors of onset age in an overall model and also significant when analyzed independently. Participants who reported more severe RLS symptoms were significantly younger in age and progressed more rapidly. Two variables from the IRLSSG severity scale were significantly associated with age of onset when tested independently: discomfort and the urge to move the limb for relief. Our analysis supports the prevailing hypothesis that RLS is divided into earlier onset disease with a clear genetic component and later onset disease with unclear etiology, and that one or more endophenotypes might exist within the disorder which could further characterize these subjects for future genetic studies.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Age of Onset
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Family Health*
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Sex Characteristics*