Restless legs syndrome--theoretical roles of inflammatory and immune mechanisms.
Theories for restless legs syndrome (RLS) pathogenesis include iron deficiency, dopamine dysregulation and peripheral neuropathy. Increased prevalence of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) in controlled studies in RLS and case reports of post-infectious RLS suggest potential roles for inflammation and immunological alterations. A literature search for all conditions associated with RLS was performed. These included secondary RLS disorders and factors that may exacerbate RLS. All of these conditions were reviewed with respect to potential pathogenesis including reports of iron deficiency, neuropathy, SIBO, inflammation and immune changes. A condition was defined as highly-associated if there was a prevalence study that utilized an appropriate control group. Small case reports were recorded but not included as definite RLS-associated conditions. Fifty four diseases, syndromes and conditions have been reported to cause and/or exacerbate RLS. Of these, 38 have been reported to have a higher prevalence than age-matched controls, 9 have adequate sized reports and have general acceptance as RLS-associated conditions and 7 have been reported in case report form. Overall, 42 of the 47 RLS-associated conditions (89%) have also been associated with inflammatory and/or immune changes. In addition, 43% have been associated with peripheral iron deficiency, 40% with peripheral neuropathy and 32% with SIBO. Most of the remaining conditions have yet to be studied for these factors. The fact that 95% of the 38 highly-associated RLS conditions are also associated with inflammatory/immune changes suggests the possibility that RLS may be mediated or affected through these mechanisms. Inflammation can be responsible for iron deficiency and hypothetically could cause central nervous system iron deficiency-induced RLS. Alternatively, an immune reaction to gastrointestinal bacteria or other antigens may hypothetically cause RLS by a direct immunological attack on the central or peripheral nervous system.
Extraintestinal manifestations of Crohn's disease (CD) have not previously included the central nervous system (CNS). Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a CNS disorder that is either idiopathic or secondary to a number of diseases. The aim of this study was to determine if RLS was associated with CD because both are associated with iron deficiency, inflammation, and bacterial overgrowth.
Consecutive CD outpatients (N = 272) were prospectively surveyed at 4 centers for criteria for RLS. Incidence (having RLS at any point in time), prevalence (having RLS at time of survey), clinical characteristics, risk factors, and potential qualitative relationship between RLS and gastrointestinal symptoms were queried.
The incidence of RLS in patients with CD was 42.7%. Prevalence was 30.2% compared with 9% of spouses. CD patients with and without RLS had a mean age of 46.8 versus 42.6 years, small intestine involvement in 77.9% versus 66.7%, colon involvement in 39.7% versus 63.2%, and prior iron deficiency anemia in 49.3% versus 33.1%. There was no difference between the CD groups with respect to current iron deficiency, RLS family history, or rare prevalence of concomitant RLS disorders. In 91.8% of patients with RLS and CD, RLS started during or after the onset of CD diagnosis. Among 73 patients with RLS, 67 (44.5%) stated there was a relationship between qualitative RLS symptom improvement with overall CD symptom improvement.
These results demonstrate that RLS occurs frequently in CD and appears to be a possible extraintestinal manifestation. The potential relationship of RLS with CD activity warrants further investigation.
Celiac disease is associated with restless legs syndrome.
Celiac disease may be associated with restless legs syndrome (RLS) because of an association with iron deficiency. Often, RLS negatively affects quality of life but may remain undiagnosed. This study evaluated the association between celiac disease and RLS.
The incidence of RLS among 85 patients with celiac disease was 35%, with a prevalence of 25% compared with 10% of spouses (P<0.02). In 79% of patients with RLS and celiac disease, neuromuscular symptoms began during or after onset of gastrointestinal symptoms. Iron deficiency was present in 40% of celiac patients with active RLS compared with 6% of patients without RLS (P<0.001). After 6 months of a gluten-free diet, RLS symptoms improved in 50% of 28 patients.
Screening for celiac disease in patients with RLS is important since this commonly overlooked silent disease may be a correctable factor for some patients with idiopathic RLS.