A collaborative study suggests that 52.4 per cent of patients with REM sleep behaviour disorder develop a neurodegenerative disease within 12 years following their initial diagnosis.
Led by researchers from the Research Institute of the MUHC, the Universite de Montreal and the Hopital du Sacre-Cur de Montreal, the study showed that the chance that a a patient with an REM sleep behaviour disorder would develop a neurodegenerative disease was 17.7 per cent within five years of diagnosis.
Reporting their findings in the journal Neurology, the researchers revealed that the likelihood increased to 40.6 per cent within 10 years, and 52.4 per cent within 12 years.
"These results establish a clear link and indicate that these sleep disorders could be a predictor of neurodegenerative disease," said Dr. Ronald Postuma, of the Research Institute of the MUHC.
The study involved 93 patients, who were recruited and assessed at the Hopital du Sacre-Coeur de Montreal by Dr Jacques Montplaisir.
"Doctors should pay close attention when following these patients, as their observations could help define the precursors of diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Lewy body dementia, or multiple system atrophy," said Dr. Montplaisir, principal investigator of the study.
The researchers highlight the fact that the existing treatments, though effective against REM sleep behaviour, do not postpone the onset of neurodegenerative disease.
They also say that a lack of data on warning sings is the reason why doctors currently find it difficult to diagnose these diseases with certainty before an advanced stage.
According to them, understanding how to detect these diseases early could be of great value to clinical practice.