Restless Legs Syndrome and Periodic Limb Movement Disorder

Authored by MCN Neurologists

About ten percent of the population experiences some form of restless legs syndrome (RLS). Diagnosis is based on clinical symptoms, including an irresistible urge to move the limbs (most commonly the legs) due to a variably described unpleasant sensation (i.e. “creepy crawly”).  Symptoms tend to be worse in the evenings and occur during inactivity, such as when sitting and watching TV or lying in bed at night.  Movement or stretching provides some relief, but RLS can still have significant impact on your ability to fall asleep.  Symptoms tend to be worse in pregnancy and certain medical conditions like iron deficiency.  Some patients with RLS also have uncontrolled limb kicking or jerking during sleep, especially in the first half of the night.  This can cause nocturnal sleep fragmentation leading to daytime sleepiness in a condition known as Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD).  An overnight sleep study is required for diagnosis.  Regular exercise and avoiding substances like caffeine or nicotine can help reduce RLS symptoms, but medications may be required.

For further information about Restless Leg Syndrome and Periodic Limb Movement Disorder, click on the following links:

www.rls.org  (Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation)
www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/restless_legs/restless_legs.htm (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke)

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