Periodic limb movement disorder or PLMD is a type of sleep disorder that causes a person’s limbs, legs, and sometimes arms to move repetitively and uncontrollably during sleep. The exact cause of PLMD is unknown. Researchers believe that the disorder may be related to low iron levels in the body or nerve conditions due to kidney diseases or diabetes. Certain conditions can increase a person’s risk to develop PLMD, which include:
- Restless leg syndrome (a condition that causes an irresistible urge to move the legs)
- Side effects of certain medications such as some antidepressants, some anti-nausea drugs, lithium, and certain antiseizure medications
- Caffeine overconsumption
- Narcolepsy (a type of sleep disorder that causes an uncontrollable urge to sleep)
- Sleep-related eating disorder
- Disorders of brain development such as attention deficit hyperkinetic disorder or ADHD (a long-term neurodevelopmental condition causing trouble in paying attention, inability to control impulsive behaviors, or being overly active)
- Spinal cord injury or spinal cord tumor
What is periodic limb muscle disorder?
Periodic limb movement disorder or PLMD is a medical condition in which a person’s limbs, legs, and sometimes arms move repetitively and uncontrollably during sleep. Most of the people who suffer from this condition are unaware of these abnormal movements occurring during sleep. The movements often occur as jerking or flexing movements of the legs. The episodes of PLMD may last for several minutes to a few hours during which the uncontrollable movements keep occurring at intervals of 20-40 seconds. The movements disturb a person’s sleep and may lead to a lack of sleep or daytime sleepiness and fatigue. Recent studies have revealed that PLMD may be linked to subtle breathing problems. People with PLMD may also have health conditions such as anemia (low hemoglobin or RBCs in the blood), diabetes, kidney diseases, and other sleep disorders such as narcolepsy.
What are the signs of periodic limb movement disorder?
The signs and symptoms of periodic limb movement disorder may include:
- Insomnia (trouble in falling or staying asleep)
- Day-time sleepiness
- Uncontrolled and repetitive leg movements in one or both the legs (because the movement occurs during sleep, the person may be unaware. The movements, however, may disturb the bed partner’s sleep.)
- Multiple awakenings from sleep (often revealed on electroencephalogram or brain wave analysis)
- Behavioral changes such as irritability, impulsiveness, or hyperactivity
- Poor performance at school or work
There may be symptoms of restless leg syndrome (an irresistible urge to move the legs due to unpleasant sensations).
What is the treatment for periodic limb movement disorder?
The treatment for periodic limb movement disorder consists of:
- Avoiding caffeine and caffeinated products such as coffee, tea, chocolates, cola, energy drinks, and certain medications (Excedrin®)
- Iron and folic acid supplements in people with anemia or low iron/folic acid levels
- Relaxation exercises/yoga/meditation
- Calming massages
- Medications such as:
- Regular exercise which can include around two and a half hours of moderate activity per week
- Balanced diet
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (counseling)
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