Evidence of peripheral axonal neuropathy in primary restless legs syndrome

Mov Disord. 1995 Jan;10(1):2-9. doi: 10.1002/mds.870100103.


Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a well-defined clinical entity characterized by an unpleasant creeping sensation arising in the legs with an irresistible need to move them. The trouble is more pronounced when the affected people lie in a prolonged rest position and try to fall asleep. It is known that RLS may be consequent to systemic disorders and to diseases affecting the central or peripheral nervous system. The International Classification of Sleep Disorders states that peripheral neuropathy should be ruled out by medical history and clinical grounds before diagnosing primary RLS (pRLS). The present study extended peripheral nerve investigation in eight consecutive pRLS patients with normal neurological examination results and showed that all patients exhibited two or more electrical, psychophysiological, and/or morphological features of peripheral axonal neuropathy. Morphometric analysis of sural nerve showed a significant reduction in myelinated fiber density and g ratio (axon diameter/fiber diameter) in the pRLS group compared with eight control biopsy specimens. These results suggest that axonal neuropathy is often present in patients with RLS. A comprehensive peripheral nerve investigation should be considered in RLS patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Aged
  • Axons / pathology
  • Electromyography
  • Electrophysiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Peripheral Nerves / pathology
  • Peripheral Nerves / physiopathology*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / pathology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology
  • Polysomnography
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / pathology
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Sensory Thresholds
  • Thermal Conductivity