What Causes Periodic Limb Movement Disorder?

Reviewed on 11/9/2020

The movements often occur as jerking or flexing movements of the legs.
The movements often occur as jerking or flexing movements of the legs.

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: 

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:

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References
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/14308-periodic-limb-movement-disorder/management-and-treatment

https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/ue5312spec

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/periodic-limb-movements-disorder

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