Migraine is frequently accompanied by additional health problems, and new research has found a correlation between migraine and restless leg syndrome (RLS) in women.

RLS is a movement disorder that most often occurs in adults who are middle-aged and older. People with RLS experience unpleasant sensations in their legs and an urge to move them when they are at rest. While it is not a serious disorder, it can be a nuisance, making sitting for long periods difficult and impairing sleep.

Previous smaller studies had shown the association between migraine and RLS, but the most recent findings, derived from 31,370 women enrolled in the Women’s Health Study, are noteworthy, according to the authors.

More than 6,000 of the study participants reported migraine over a nine-year period and were 22% more likely to experience RLS than women without migraine. The results were similar for women with and without aura.

“This is important because restless leg syndrome can also be a severe and debilitating disorder that may hugely impair quality of life, but at the same time is often treatable,” lead author Marcus Schurks, MD, of the University Hospital of Essen in Germany told Medscape Medical News. “In clinical practice, it is relatively straightforward to diagnose with a few simple questions.”

Limitations of the study include participants self-reporting both migraine and RLS and that the study participants were highly educated women 45 and younger, though researchers note that women of that age group are those most affected by RLS.

Researchers are not certain what may cause the link between the two disorders, but it is possible that problems with iron and dopamine may play a role.

“Given the high prevalence and burden of both conditions, further research at the population level is warranted,” the authors wrote. “Specific unanswered questions pertain to potential gender differences of the migraine-RLS link, whether severity of migraine has an impact on severity of RLS, and the underlying pathophysiology of both conditions.”

The study appeared online March 6 in Cephalalgia.

For more information.