Iron, dopamine, genetics, and hormones in the pathophysiology of restless legs syndrome

Abstract

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a common, chronic neurologic condition, which causes a persistent urge to move the legs in the evening that interferes with sleep. Human and animal studies have been used to study the pathophysiologic state of RLS and much has been learned about the iron and dopamine systems in relation to RLS. Human neuropathologic and imaging studies have consistently shown decreased iron in different brain regions including substantia nigra and thalamus. These same areas also demonstrate a state of relative dopamine excess. While it is not known how these changes in dopamine or iron produce the symptoms of RLS, genetic and hormone studies of RLS have identified other biologic systems or genes, such as the endogenous opioid and melanocortin systems and BTBD9 and MEIS1, that may explain some of the iron or dopamine changes in relation to RLS. This manuscript will review what is known about the pathophysiology of RLS, especially as it relates to changes in iron, dopamine, genetics, and hormonal systems.

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Khan, F.H., Ahlberg, C.D., Chow, C.A. et al. Iron, dopamine, genetics, and hormones in the pathophysiology of restless legs syndrome. J Neurol 264, 1634–1641 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00415-017-8431-1

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Keywords

  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Pathophysiology
  • Dopamine
  • Iron
  • Genetics