Restless Leg Syndrome and Anemia

Posted by Darian Dozier on Jan 3, 2022 7:00:00 PM

Add a heading-Sep-13-2021-02-16-48-46-PM

Restless leg syndrome has a sleep disorder that involves constant moving of the legs to relieve pain, itchiness, discomfort, tingling, and any other movement that can disrupt your sleep. There are a few documented causes for restless leg syndrome, but did you know one of them is anemia? If you have restless leg syndrome but have not been able to figure out the cause it may be due to anemia. Continue reading to find out how Annie Mia may play a role in your sleep disorder.

 What is anemia?

Anemia is a blood disorder where the amount of red blood cells are lower than what they should be. Hemoglobin is a molecule within the red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. It also carries carbon dioxide from the tissues to the lungs to be expelled whenever you exhale.

When either hemoglobin and/or red blood cells are low, this can lead to an issue removing carbon dioxide as well as getting adequate amounts of oxygen to tissues from the lungs. There are several different types of anemia however the one associated it with RLS is iron deficiency anemia. Iron deficiency anemia is anemia caused by low levels of iron in the body.

These low levels of iron can either be due to diet, extreme blood loss from surgery, heavy periods, trauma, etc., or an increased demand for iron. Without sufficient amount of iron, the red blood cells cannot do their function which leads to a host of other problems.

What are the signs of anemia?

The signs of iron deficiency anemia can be insidious at onset. This means that you may have iron deficiency anemia and have no idea until your iron levels are extremely low and your hemoglobin and red blood cell count is extremely low as well. Before you even know what's going on you may experience a few common symptoms of anemia like fatigue, pallor, exercise intolerance, and just a general overall feeling of subpar.

In addition to those signs you may also experience something called pica. Pica is a neurological disorder where someone eats something that they normally wouldn't like clay, or dirt, or even ice. This is due to the deficiency in iron which can lead to weird cravings for the body. Mental status change is also another common symptom of iron deficiency anemia as well as Restless Leg Syndrome. 

What is Restless Leg Syndrome?

RLS is a neurological disorder where someone moves their legs throughout the night because their legs feel itchy, tingling, or uncomfortable. They use the movement to relieve the pain felt by their legs but this leads to disrupted sleep for them and anyone else they may share bed with. This can be quite the debilitating sleep disorder and very uncomfortable especially if the cause is unknown. What someone may not realize is that the roots of their restless leg syndrome is actually iron deficiency anemia.

The link between iron deficiency anemia and RLS.

The brain uses a lot of energy. It is the most consuming organ in the entire body and requires a lot of red blood cells. In anemia when the red blood cells are at a lower number, this can lead to the brain having difficulty getting the amount of iron and oxygen that it needs. Along with mental status change the decrease in iron actually play a role in sending all sensory signals associated with the tingling and numbness seen in RLS. 

How to get tested for anemia

If you've noticed restless leg syndrome along with any of the other mentioned symptoms then it may be time to go talk to your doctor. Your doctor can draw blood and run a standard panel that would look at the amount of hemoglobin and red blood cells in your blood. If your labs come back abnormal with low levels of iron, red blood cells, and hemoglobin then you may have found your cause for Restless Leg Syndrome. By treating iron deficiency anemia you may start to see some relief in your RLS which will help you get an adequate amount of sleep.

If your symptoms of restless leg syndrome continue even after being tested for anemia then it may be time to talk to a sleep specialist. Please click the orange button below to schedule an appointment with a specialist today.

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