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How do I know if I have periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD)?

Steven A. Meyers, MD
Diagnostic Radiology

Periodic limb movement disorder is a disorder where the limbs jerk or jump during sleep. The abnormal movements may waken the patient repeatedly during the night resulted in inadequate sleep and daytime sleepiness. Sometimes the person who has the condition is unaware of the movements and the bed partner may complain of being kicked or awakened at night due to the movements.

The disorder can usually be diagnosed based on the history. An overnight polysomnogram can document the presence of the limb movements and rule out other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.

Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD) is characterized by repetitive leg "jerking" while sleeping, which cannot be explained by another cause. PLMD also causes you to sleep poorly, so you will likely have daytime sleepiness. Other causes of limb jerking while sleeping include restless leg syndrome (a closely related disorder), medications and narcolepsy. If you suspect you have PLMD, a test called polysomnography can be done, during which the number of leg jerks is measured. Patients with more than five jerks per hour, daytime sleepiness, poor sleep and no other cause for these symptoms are diagnosed with PLMD.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.