A 77-year-old man is on the mend after developing a condition that doctors have termed "restless anal syndrome."
The man, who has not been publicly identified, is the subject of a new BMC Infectious Diseases case report. He started noticing symptoms after he recovered from COVID-19, developing a constant need to poop. The case report detailed how the man, who lives in Japan, sought treatment for "deep anal discomfort" after spending 21 days in the hospital with COVID.
The man said the discomfort gave him an "essential urge to move" his bowels. But, even when he went No. 2, he still didn't feel relief.
The case report said that the man's symptoms got worse when he was resting, felt better when he exercised, and got worse again in the evening. He had a colonoscopy that detected hemorrhoids, but that didn't explain his symptoms. Neurological tests found no issues with the reflexes of his tendons in his anus, nor did they uncover any problems with the sensation in his perineum (the area between the anus and genitals) and spinal cord.
Doctors dubbed his condition restless anus syndrome, linking his symptoms in the paper with restless legs syndrome—a disorder that causes uncomfortable or unpleasant sensations in the legs and an irresistible urge to move them, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
The symptoms of restless legs syndrome are similar to what the man experienced in his anus. With restless legs syndrome, a patient typically feels an urge to move in the late afternoon or evening, and symptoms are usually worse at night when someone is resting. They can also happen when someone has been inactive and sitting for longer periods of time.
Is restless anus syndrome a legit symptom of COVID-19?
While you've probably memorized the main symptoms of COVID-19 by now, it never hurts to repeat them. These are the major signs of the virus to look out for, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
While the CDC's list doesn't include restless anal syndrome, it does point out that it does not include "all possible symptoms."
Should you worry about getting restless anus syndrome if you get COVID?
It's easy to read about this man's case and panic that it will happen to you if you contract COVID-19. But infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, MD, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells Health that's unlikely.
"I've personally never seen anything like this," he says. "Restless leg syndrome has been reported as a rare complication of COVID-19 in some case reports, and this is an even rarer variant."
As for why this might have happened, Dr. Adalja says that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can spread to the nerves, "possibly causing dysfunction."
Dr. Adalja says that he "highly doubts" people will develop a complication like this from COVID-19. But, he says, you should "seek medical attention" if it happens to you.
As for the man, the case report said that he was prescribed 1.5 milligrams a day of the anxiety medication Clonazepam, which "resulted in the alleviation of restless anal discomfort."
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