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Last Updated:
24 May, 2005
   
 

Leg Movement Disorders

Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD)
 
What is it?
How common is it?
How is it diagnosed?

How is it treated?

   
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
 
What is it?
How common is it?
How is it diagnosed?

How is it treated?

 
 
 

Periodic Limb Movement Disorder

 

What is it?

  • Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) is the movement of one or both legs repeatedly during sleep.

  • These movements occur every 20-40 seconds in some people and are often more common in the first half of a night’s sleep.

  • These limb movements may sometimes result in awakenings from sleep and there is believed to be an association between PLMD and daytime sleepiness.

 

How common is it?

Patient and Doctor
  • The disorder is thought to be present in approximately 30% of people between the ages of 50 and 65 years and 50% of over 65s.
 

How is it diagnosed?

  • Periodic limb movements are usually detected as part of an overnight, in hospital, sleep study called a polysomnography.
 
 

How is it treated?

  • If PLMD is significantly interfering with sleep quality it is often treated with medication (e.g. anti-Parkinsonian drugs).
 
 
 
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Restless Leg Syndrome

 

What is it?

  • Restless legs syndrome is an unpleasant sensation in the legs.
A leg!
 
  • It can occur during the day, but is usually worse at night and can cause difficulty with getting to sleep.
 
 
  • It is often described as a ‘creeping’ sensation in the inside of the calf muscles and can be associated with general aches and pains in the legs.
 
  • These abnormal feelings are worsened by rest and are helped by activity.
 

How common is it?

  • RLS affects 2-5% of the adult population and is more common with increasing age. It is also more common when other close relatives have it.

  • RLS is present in approximately 20 – 57% of people with kidney failure on dialysis. RLS can also occur if there are low iron stores in the blood.

  • RLS can be associated with other neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.

 
 

How is it diagnosed?

If a sleep study (polysomnography) is performed, patients are found to have repetitive regular leg movements, which can disturb sleep.

 
 

How is it treated?

  • RLS is difficult to treat but there are some general measures, which may be of help including:

    1. Relaxation
    2. Moderate exercise
    3. Hot baths
    4. Massage
    5. Stopping all caffeine-containing products

    There are many medications, which can be used in the treatment of RLS. However, not all of them will work in every single patient and they also can work for different periods of time.

 
 
 
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