RLS & Periodic Limb Movement Disorder

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RLS & Periodic Limb Movement Disorder

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is an illness leading to an uncontrollable desire to move the legs, generally due to an uncomfortable feeling. You can expect it to happen during the evening or night when seated or lying down. Moving reduces the unpleasant feeling temporarily. It’s also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, can happen regardless of age and gets worse the older you get.

Simple self-help strategies, lifestyle changes, and treatments such as ketamine infusion therapy may help relieve the discomfort of RLS.

What Is Periodic Limb Movement Disorder?

Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) is an uncommon sleep disorder presented by periodic, repetitive leg and foot movements when you’re sleeping. It occasionally affects your arms. For anyone with PLMD or who sleeps with someone with PLMD, the movements may be seen as short-lived muscle twitches, jerking motions, or an upward bending of your feet. The condition can interfere with your sleep or happen simultaneously as another sleep disorder, like restless legs syndrome and narcolepsy.

Understanding the Symptoms

With PLMD, your legs or arms usually twitch and lurch a few times every minute during sleep. You may not even know it’s happening but will likely complain of restless sleep, waking up often during sleep hours, or feeling tired during the day. But with this condition, you won’t have any atypical feelings in your arms or legs.

On the other hand, restless legs syndrome is not unusual to struggle with an irresistible urge to move your legs when seated or lying down. You may also experience vague but strong, odd sensations in your legs, occasionally supplemented by pain. People often describe the sensations as burning, creeping – or worse, like insects burrowing inside the legs. While asleep, your legs may move impulsively and uncontrollably, often waking you up – making it extremely hard to relax and fall asleep. You can often lessen these feelings by stretching your legs. Walking or moving may also help to relieve the sensations and provide relief. 

Symptoms often happen when you’re under stress. They could occasionally happen, with few problems, or many times a week, interfering with sleep and making it hard to concentrate and live normally.

The Difference Between RLS & PLMD

If you have problems sleeping from restless legs syndrome or periodic leg movement disorder, you’re not alone. According to the American Sleep Association, up to 70 million U.S. adults have a sleep disorder – affecting daily life, including working, school, and maintaining relationships.

But there are differences between the two conditions we’re discussing in this article.

Restless Legs Syndrome

You can move to relieve the discomfort with RLS, but that’s only temporary. The symptoms often lead to insomnia. The condition can have a genetic origin, with more than 90% of people who have it reporting they have a blood relative with the same condition. But what about potential causes besides inheritance? Research points to any of the following: depression, diabetes, dialysis, fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism, iron deficiency, kidney disease, Parkinson’s, peripheral neuropathy, pregnancy, rheumatoid arthritis, and uremia.

Periodic Limb Movement Disorder

PLMD can make you sleepy during the daytime, but it often goes unnoticed because you don’t know your arms and legs are moving while you’re asleep. It can also be caused by restless legs syndrome. When it happens on its own, no one knows the exact cause. Still, periodic limb movement disorders may occur due to anemia, excess caffeine, diabetes, low iron levels, spinal cord injuries, or tumors. As we mentioned previously, some studies indicate that it may also be caused by other sleep disorders (narcolepsy, REM sleep behavior disorder, or sleep apnea), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and side effects or withdrawals related to certain medicines like antidepressants and sedatives.

If you have severe problems from either condition, see your primary healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment options.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Diagnosis for either condition means a visit with your healthcare provider or another medical professional specializing in sleep disorders. In either case, determining what’s going on involves assessing your symptoms and possible underlying conditions that you may have. You’ll be expected to talk about the pain in detail and discuss your personal and family medical history. For RLS, your clinician will compare your symptoms to those created by the International Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group.

Treatment for either condition may include diet and lifestyle changes, therapy, certain medicine, or newer options like ketamine therapy.

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