Recent studies indicate that as many as three out of ten individuals who suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), a serious and painful autoimmune disorder, have Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) as well. In a 2013 article, “Restless Legs Syndrome as a Comorbidity in Rheumatoid Arthritis,” co-authors John A. Gjevre and Regina M. Taylor Gjevre of the Department of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan wrote:
“Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a multisystem disease with a complex immunologic pathophysiology. Likewise, sleep disorders can involve a complicated interplay between the neurologic pathways, immune system, and respiratory system. Recent studies have shown an elevated prevalence of sleep abnormalities in connective tissue disorders compared to the general population. Restless legs syndrome (RLS) may be present in up to 30% of RA patients. These findings may be related to cytokine release and other immunomodulatory responses. TNF-α levels relate to sleep physiology and anti-TNF-α therapy may improve sleep patterns. Most of the patients with this disorder can distinguish their RLS sensations from their arthritic symptoms. RLS is a common comorbidity seen with RA, and prompt recognition and treatment can improve patient quality of life.”
RLS is a common neurological/sleep disorder that causes uncomfortable or painful feelings, usually in a leg, but the symptoms can occur in another limb. These difficult symptoms, which include sensations of burning, tingling, crawling, pulling and tugging cause the sufferer to have an almost irresistible urge to move about in order to relieve the discomfort.
Other Conditions associated with RLS
(The following information comes from Penn State University’s Milton S. Hershey Medical Center)
PLMD (Periodic Limb Motion Disorder), often accompanies RLS. PLMF causes leg muscles to contract and jerk every 20-40 minutes during sleep. These movements may last less than a second or as long as 10 seconds. Approximately 80% of all RLS patients report PLMD. Conversely, only about a third of people with PLMD also report RLS symptoms.
- Osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease). About three-quarters of patients with RLS also have osteoarthritis, a common condition affecting older adults.
- Varicose veins. Varicose veins occur in about 1 in 7 patients with RLS.
- Diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes may have higher rates of secondary RLS. Nerve pain (neuropathy) related to their diabetes cannot fully explain the higher rate of RLS.
- Hypothyroidism (a condition in which the thyroid gland does not make enough hormones)
- Fibromyalgia (chronic pain of unknown cause)
- Emphysema (a lung disease usually caused by smoking)
- Chronic alcoholism
- Sleep apnea (pauses in breathing during sleep) and snoring
- Chronic headaches
- Brain or spinal injuries
- Many muscle and nerve disorders.