Hepcidin and ferritin levels in restless legs syndrome: a case-control study

Sci Rep. 2020 Jul 17;10(1):11914. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-68851-0.


The association between restless legs syndrome (RLS) and iron homeostasis remains unclear. We compared serum hepcidin and ferritin levels in patients with RLS and controls, and assessed their relationships with RLS phenotype, drug intake, and history of augmentation syndrome. 102 drug-free RLS patients (age 58.9 [24.5-77.2], 63 females) and 73 controls (age 56.8 [23.46-76.6], 45 females) underwent a polysomnography recording. Hepcidin levels were quantified by ELISA. 34 RLS patients had a second assessment after starting dopaminergic drugs. Ferritin level was low (< 50 µg/l) in 14.7% of patients and 25% of controls, with no between-group differences in the mean values. Hepcidin levels were higher in patients even after adjustment for confounding factors, and excluding participants with low ferritin levels. Ferritin and hepcidin levels were comparable before and after treatment, and between patients with (n = 17) and without history of augmentation. Ferritin and hepcidin levels correlated with age, body mass index, and periodic leg movements. Higher hepcidin levels were associated with older age, older age at RLS onset, less daytime sleepiness and familial RLS. In conclusion, serum hepcidin levels but not ferritin were higher in RLS patients regardless of treatment and history of augmentation. Serum hepcidin may be a more relevant biomarker of RLS than ferritin.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Ferritins / blood*
  • Hepcidins / blood*
  • Humans
  • Iron / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polysomnography
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / blood*


  • HAMP protein, human
  • Hepcidins
  • Ferritins
  • Iron