Is 'Restless Anal Syndrome' a Real COVID Side Effect?

dog on the toilet

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Key Takeaways

  • In Japan, there's one documented case of restless anal syndrome as a condition related to COVID-19.
  • Like restless leg syndrome, the patient with restless anal syndrome feels a constant urge to use the bathroom.
  • Researchers say there's no need to worry about this condition for now since it's rare, but doctors should pay attention similar cases.

Scientists are discovering more symptoms and side effects of COVID-19. A new report in Japan says the virus may be able to affect more private areas of your body—down there.

Specifically, COVID-19 infection may increase people’s urges to poop. This new condition, named “restless anal syndrome,” comes from a lone case report of an unnamed 77-year-old man in Japan who experienced “deep anal discomfort” after recovering from the virus.

“I was very surprised about this patient,” Itaru Nakamura, PhD, a professor at Tokyo Medical University Hospital in Japan and lead author of the report, wrote in an email to Verywell. “Before the diagnosis, I [didn't] recognize these disease concepts well. Therefore, other doctors also might miss the diagnosis.”

To date, this case is the first and the only documentation of the syndrome.

What Is Restless Anal Syndrome?

Restless Anal Syndrome affects the body in similar ways as restless legs syndrome (RLS), a neurological condition that causes an uncontrollable urge to move the legs. People who have RLS constantly feel the need to walk, run or stretch. But people with restless anal syndrome might feel constant bowel movement.

Emerging evidence shows that COVID-19 affects the central nervous system, according to the study, which may lead to neuropsychiatric manifestations like delirium and acute psychosis. Researchers suggested that restless symptoms may have arisen from damages to the nerves.

What This Means For You

COVID-19 can affect the brain. The virus may lead to restless leg syndrome or restless anal syndrome because of dysfunction in the central nervous system, but these cases are very rare.

Is Restless Anal Syndrome Treatable?

In the case reported, the man underwent a colonoscopy and neurological tests to look for an explanation for his symptoms. Although the colonoscopy found hemorrhoids, these were not considered an explanation for the symptoms. Likewise, the neurological tests did not present answers.

He was then treated with a daily dose of Clonazepam, one of the medications prescribed for RLS. The treatment has alleviated the man’s anal discomfort but has yet to fully resolve the condition.

Researchers also noted that the man’s symptoms worsened when resting and in the evening, but improved with exercise. The condition also disrupted his sleep, but he was able to stay asleep with the aid of sleeping pills. 

Should You Worry About Getting Restless Anal Syndrome?

Since this is the first and only report of restless anal syndrome as a symptom of COVID-19, researchers are unsure how prevalent or severe this condition can be.

“COVID-19 related RLS or RLS variant may be underdiagnosed and we should pay attention to similar cases in order to clarify the relation between COVID-19 and RLS,” the study authors wrote.

Still, the authors note that it is unclear whether restless anal syndrome is directly caused by COVID-19. For now, as the symptom appears rare, people should not be very worried about it, Nakamura says.

COVID-19 Symptoms

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the following as symptoms for COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Nakamura I, Itoi T, Inoue T. Case report of restless anal syndrome as restless legs syndrome variant after COVID-19BMC Infectious Diseases. 2021;21(1):993. doi:10.1186/s12879-021-06683-7

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms of COVID-19.

By Claire Wolters
Claire Wolters is a staff reporter covering health news for Verywell. She is most passionate about stories that cover real issues and spark change.