Lupus and Restless Legs

As many as 12 million people in the United States have restless legs syndrome (RLS). People with RLS experience crawling, creeping, or tingling feelings accompanied by an urge to vigorously move the legs, especially when they’re at rest. Movement often alleviates the sensation. Not surprisingly, RLS can disturb a person’s sleep, but it also can affect work performance and other daily activities.

In most cases, the cause is unknown, although it can sometimes be caused by medication; when the medication is stopped, the RLS disappears. It also occasionally occurs in the last months of pregnancy and usually improves or goes away after the birth.

Recently, Turkish medical researchers at the rheumatology clinic of a university-affiliated hospital explored the links between RLS, lupus, and anemia. Research about RLS suggests that it’s connected to an inflammation/immune system dysfunction, just as lupus is. The scientists also knew that RLS is more common in lupus patients and that some findings have suggested that anemia is associated with more severe RLS in people with lupus.

Starting with this information, the researchers recruited 124 subjects — 62 patients with lupus and 62 patients without it. They also divided the patients according to their hemoglobin levels, which give an indication of the presence of anemia. In face-to-face interviews, the patients were asked whether they had any symptoms of RLS.

Twenty of the lupus patients had anemia, and 19 had RLS. Ten patients had both anemia and RLS. The researchers also found significant differences in the prevalence of RLS between lupus patients with anemia and lupus patients without it. Their conclusion: Patients who have lupus tend to experience RLS more than the general population. The researchers also reported that their study suggested that lupus patients who also have anemia have even more severe RLS.

This article was published in the August/September 2016 issue of Pain-Free Living. Subscribe.

Joseph Gustaitis is a freelance writer and editor based in the Chicago area.

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