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Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (cont.)

What causes periodic limb movement disorder?

Persistent sleep disruption and daytime sleepiness are not part of normal aging.  

Periodic limb movement disorder can be primary or secondary. Secondary PLMD is caused by an underlying medical problem. Primary PLMD, on the other hand, has no known cause. It has been linked to abnormalities in regulation of nerves traveling from the brain to the limbs, but the exact nature of these abnormalities is not known.  

Secondary PLMD has many different causes, including the following. Many of these are also causes of restless legs syndrome.

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Iron deficiency
  • Spinal cord tumor
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Sleep apnea syndrome - Breathing difficulties that disrupt sleep, causing daytime sleepiness and a number of other problems
  • Narcolepsy - A sleep disorder involving excessive sleepiness and overpowering urge to sleep during waking hours
  • Uremia - Build-up of waste products in the blood because of poor kidney function
  • Anemia - Low level of hemoglobin, the substance that carries oxygen in the blood
  • Medication - Neuroleptics and other antidopaminergic agents such as Haldol, dopaminergic agents such as Sinemet (despite the fact that Sinemet is often a treatment for PLMD), or tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline (Elavil)
  • Withdrawal from sedative medications such as barbiturates or benzodiazepines (such as Valium)
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/22/2016
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Periodic Limb Movement Disorder »

Periodic limb movement (PLM) disorder is unique in that the movements occur during sleep.

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