A man developed 'restless anal syndrome' weeks after recovering from a mild case of COVID-19

A man developed 'restless anal syndrome' weeks after recovering from a mild case of COVID-19
Crystal Cox/Business Insider
  • A 77-year-old man developed a pain deep in his anus weeks after having COVID-19.
  • He had never experienced the restless discomfort before, and it didn't improve after bowel movements.
  • Doctors told him it was an anal variant of restless leg syndrome, which has been linked to COVID-19.

A man in Japan developed "deep anal discomfort" several weeks after he recovered from COVID-19, according to a recent case report published in BMC Infectious Diseases.

Doctors at Tokyo University Hospital diagnosed him with "restless anal syndrome," an unusual variant of restless leg syndrome. RLS variants have been observed in the abdomen, bladder, and mouth, but this is the first anal presentation described in medical literature.

The 77-year-old man reported a restless discomfort approximately 10 cm - the length of a golf pencil - deep in his anus. He told doctors he had the urge to move his bowels, but pooping didn't alleviate the feeling.

His symptoms worsened in the evening and in periods of rest, which is consistent with restless leg syndrome, the doctors noted. Additionally, he was able to get some relief with exercise - another common feature of RLS.

A colonoscopy revealed that, aside from a few hemorrhoids, nothing was wrong inside the man's rectum. He had no brain abnormalities, bladder disturbance, or erectile dysfunction. In addition a bit of anxiety and insomnia, the restless feeling was his only health issue since COVID-19.


Several weeks earlier, the man had been admitted to the hospital with a relatively mild case of COVID-19 that included sore throat, cough, and fever. He had a low-grade fever for 10 days and was treated for mild pneumonia.

The anal discomfort started after he recovered from his respiratory symptoms, sending him back to the hospital. The doctors determined that because the patient had never experienced the restlessness in his anus before, it was likely a COVID-related syndrome.

After a course of Clonazepam, a drug used to treat seizures, the discomfort in his anus resolved.

Long-haulers have reported some strange lingering symptoms, including regular RLS and other neurological disorders. Symptoms like brain fog and ringing ears can last for months after the initial infection, putting COVID survivors at elevated risk of psychological distress.