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Eur J Neurol. 2006 Oct;13 Suppl 3:8-14.

Considering the causes of RLS.

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Departments of Medicine and Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.


The pathophysiology of restless legs syndrome (RLS) is complex and remains to be fully elucidated. The condition is predominantly a disorder of the central rather than the peripheral, nervous system, and dopaminergic dysfunction in subcortical systems appears to play a central role. Conditions associated with secondary RLS, such as pregnancy or end-stage renal disease, are characterized by iron deficiency, which suggests that disturbed iron homeostasis may also play a role in the development of the condition. Although most patients with RLS have normal serum ferritin levels, concentrations of ferritin and transferrin in the cerebrospinal fluid are reduced, suggesting iron deficiency within the central nervous system. Although iron is necessary for the activity of tyrosine hydroxylase, the rate-limiting step in dopamine synthesis, it is unclear whether this relationship plays a role in the aetiology of RLS. There also appears to be a genetic component, particularly when the condition develops before the age of 45 years. Candidate genetic loci have been located on chromosomes 9p, 12q and 14q, but the genes involved have yet to be identified. How these three identified aetiological factors, namely dopaminergic dysfunction, impaired iron homeostasis and genetic disposition, are inter-related in the genesis of RLS remains unclear.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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