Anyone who suffers from Crohn’s disease (CD), an inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, knows that side effects can include kidney stones, liver problems and arthritis. In addition, CD patients commonly feel great fatigue.
New research shows that the fatigue might be related to restless legs syndrome (RLS), a condition in which a strong urge to move your legs at night can disrupt your sleep.
In fact, a study at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO, found that the incidence of RLS in patients with Crohn’s disease was as common as many of the better-documented side effects. The researchers studied 272 patients with CD and found that 43 percent had an incidence of RLS. The condition often cropped up during or after the onset of CD, suggesting the link, the researchers said. The study was described in the Winter 2011 issue of Digestive Diseases News.
The link between Crohn’s disease and RLS merited study because both conditions are associated with iron deficiency, GI tract inflammation and bacterial overgrowth, the researchers said. CD patients are often lacking iron because of dietary restrictions, malabsorption and intestinal bleeding. Interestingly, people at risk for iron deficiency are also at risk for RLS, according to the newsletter.
One outcome of the study might be a better understanding of ongoing fatigue in regard to CD patients. A chronic condition, Crohn’s disease usually occurs in the small intestine, firing up symptoms that include abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, weight loss and low energy. If sleep problems show up as well, doctors can now look at the possibility of RLS.
“Further studies are warranted to evaluate the potential impact that RLS has on the quality of life in patients with CD using the international RLS rating scale,” said the article in Digestive Diseases News.
Patients with RLS often report a tingling, prickly sensation in their legs; moving their legs provides short-term relief. The rating scale for RLS asks patients to rate their discomfort as mild, moderate, severe and very severe and to judge how their discomfort affects their sleep, mood and daily activities.
The prevalence of Restless Leg Syndrome ranges anywhere from 3 to 15 percent, according to the RLS Foundation. Crohn’s disease is more unusual, however. According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, an estimated 500,000 Americans have CD.
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Deborah Ross writes about health, education, Arizona travel and the arts from her home in Phoenix.