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RLS in thyroid disorders

Clinical bottom line

Up to 8% of people with untreated thyroid disease will have symptoms of RLS, and this improves or resolves on treatment.


EK Tan et al. Restless legs symptoms in thyroid disorders. Parkinsonism and Related Disorders 2004 10: 149-151.


Consecutive patients to an outpatient clinic were examined over one year. For every patient newly diagnosed with thyroid disease, three age and sex-matched controls were chosen from the same outpatient list, but with no biochemical or clinical evidence of thyroid disorder. In face-to-face interviews diagnosis of RLS symptoms was made using current diagnostic criteria.


There were 146 thyroid patients and 464 controls. The mean age of thyroid patients and controls was about 46 years, and about 70% were women.

Twelve thyroid patients (8%) responded positively to the first three questions on RLS (urge to move the legs associated with sensory symptoms, motor restlessness, relief on moving the legs), but not the fourth question on symptoms being worse in the evening or at night. In controls, only 0.2% responded in this way.

Eleven of the thyroid patients had Graves' disease or hyperthyroidism. Four patients had complete resolution of symptoms of RLS after treatment. The remainder reported some improvement.


Untreated thyroid disease produces RLS symptoms that improve or resolve on treatment.