Insight into the pathophysiology of restless legs syndrome

J Neurosci Res. 2000 Dec 1;62(5):623-8. doi: 10.1002/1097-4547(20001201)62:5<623::AID-JNR1>3.0.CO;2-H.


Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a disorder of sensation with a prevalence of around 2-5% of the population. Relevant to understanding the possible pathophysiological mechanism is the fact that RLS is extremely responsive to dopaminergic agents. A second issue is that iron deficiency states may precipitate RLS in as much as 25-30% of people with iron deficiency. Studies looking at basal ganglia dopaminergic function using PET and SPECT techniques have shown a decrease in binding potential for the dopamine receptor and transporter. Similar phenomena occurs in iron-deficient animals. Using MRI techniques and CSF analysis of iron-related protein, studies have suggested a reduction in brain iron concentration occurs in RLS patients. The relevance of CNS iron metabolism to the pathophysiology of RLS is discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Iron / deficiency
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / metabolism*


  • Iron
  • Dopamine