Periodic Limb Movement Disorder and Restless Legs Syndrome

Periodic-Limb-Movement-Disorder.jpgAnother disorder that affects the limbs, and affects a person’s ability to sleep at night and function normally during the day, is Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD). While the leg movements of Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) are a voluntary response to ease the uncomfortable feelings in the limbs when a person is awake, the movements of PLMD occur most often when a person is asleep and are involuntary. People with PLMD are often not aware of these movements, although they may occasionally notice the involuntary movements of PLMD while they are awake. Bed partners can notice the leg movements, often by a slight jerking of the mattress or bed. Most people with RLS have PLMD, but patients with PLMD often do not have RLS.

Five to 10 percent of the population experience the discomfort or pain of RLS at some time in their lives. Severe cases of RLS, although not common, can be hereditary. The disorder is more common in older individuals but can occur at any age in both men and women.

PLMD is rare in people under 30 years of age, but becomes more common as people grow older. PLMD affects 5 percent of people age 30-50; 25 percent of people age 50-65; and 44 percent of people over age 65. Men and women are equally likely to be affected.

Causes of Periodic Limb Movement Disorder and Restless Legs Syndrome

Approximately 30 percent of RLS cases have a hereditary cause. For the other 70 percent, the causes are not yet clearly known, however some situations seem to have a connection with the symptoms of RLS. These can include poor blood circulation in the legs, nerve problems, muscle disorders, kidney disease, alcoholism and vitamin or mineral deficiencies. The cause of PLMD is also unclear. The same factors that are associated with RLS are associated with PLMD.

Treatment Options for Periodic Limb Movement Disorder and Restless Legs Syndrome

The first step in treating RLS or PLMD is to make the proper diagnosis and determine any underlying causes. When home remedies are not effective, such as regular exercise and leg massages, your healthcare provider can treat RLS with medications. The effectiveness of a particular drug will depend on the severity of the condition, additional medical conditions and other medications that the patient is taking.