Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Iron Deficiency and Restless Leg Syndrome

By Joanne Rossman, MD
Restless leg syndrome sufferers have unpleasant sensations in the legs. These sensations usually occur at night or after periods of inactivity. They are commonly described as creeping, crawling, pulling, throbbing, gnawing, burning, or pain involving the legs. The discomfort is worsened by stress and emotional upset. The discomfort lessens or is relieved by stretching, walking, jiggling the affected limb, exercising, or pacing.(1) Patients with restless leg syndrome are awakened by these symptoms and move frequently in order to alleviate their pain. Several patients experience limb jerking with sleep disruption. As a result, restless leg syndrome patients tend to suffer from severe insomnia. They experience many side effects from their insomnia including daytime fatigue, depression, anxiety, and slowed thought processes.

Approximately 20% of restless leg syndrome patients are actually suffering from iron deficiency. New data suggest that a serum ferritin of less than 80 is associated with iron deficiency induced restless leg syndrome. The symptoms of iron deficiency are similar to those seen in severe insomnia. They include fatigue, slowed thought processes, depression, muscle aches, dizziness, and cold intolerance. Physical exam and laboratory evaluation by a physician can determine if your symptoms of restless leg syndrome are due to iron deficiency. Treatment with iron infusion can rapidly correct these symptoms and return a night of restful sleep.

Joanne Rossman, MD practices at Medical West.

For more information please read the following article:
Diego Garcia-Borreguero, et al. Algorithms for the diagnosis and treatment of restless legs syndrome in primary care.  BMC Neurology 2011 Feb 27; 11:28.

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