When we hear about iron, what usually comes to our mind is anemia. However, iron infusion treatments are also done with those who suffer from a sleep-related neurological disorder called the restless leg syndrome (RLS) which actually affects approximately 10% of Americans. Recent studies suggest that RLS has a correlation with iron deficiency anemia which is why treating this deficiency first would open the possibility of treating the disorder itself.
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a disorder which affects one’s movement and sleep. One will experience weird or unpleasant sensations in their legs wherein one will have that overwhelming urge of moving them. These symptoms are usually triggered by periods of inactivity which happens at night and improves with movement, thereby disrupting one’s sleep.
According to a post-mortem study done by James Connor, PhD of Penn State University, RLS may be due to the low iron levels in a particular part of the brain which enables the transport of iron to and from the cells. These findings led them to believe that RLS may be of genetic origin.
Iron Infusion Treatment
The goal of treatment for RLS is primarily focused on the relief of the symptoms and treating the underlying iron deficiency. However, taking oral iron supplements can cause some discomforts which render some patients non-compliant to them. Aside from that, it is also not properly metabolized by the body which makes it an ineffective treatment option.
John Hopkins Center for Restless Leg Syndrome conducted a study of patients with normal blood iron levels being treated with IV infusions of 1,000 milligrams of iron. This route of administration (intravenous) bypasses the gastrointestinal tract which thereby eliminates the problem on metabolism and GI discomforts; thus, it is more readily available to the brain. More than 60% of the patients on this study have experienced complete remission of the symptoms of RLS which lasted for weeks to months. Thus, this suggests that iron infusion therapy may be used as primary mode of treatment for the management of restless leg syndrome in the future.