Periodic Limb Movements

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Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) is repetitive cramping or jerking of the legs during sleep.

Periodic limb movement disorder can be primary or secondary. Secondary PLMD is caused by an underlying medical problem. Primary PLMD has no known cause. It has been linked to abnormalities in regulation of nerves traveling from the brain to the limbs.

Secondary PLMD causes:
1. Diabetes mellitus
2. Iron deficiency
3. Sleep apnea
4. Narcolepsy
5. Anemia
6. Withdrawal from sedative medications
7. Some medications, most commonly antidepressants and antinausea medications.

1. Movements are rhythmic and repetitive and occur every 20-40 seconds
2. Movements last about 2 seconds
3. Typically the knee, ankle and big toe all bend as part of the movements.

Correction of periodic limb movement disorder is not necessary unless there is associated restlessness of the legs. Rarely, this may be indicated if there is significant sleep interruptions or unexplained excessive daytime sleepiness. The treatment for periodic limb movement disorder is similar to the treatment for restlessness of the legs.