RLS vs. PLMS
RESTLESS LEGS SYNDROME VS. PERIODIC LIMB MOVEMENTS OF SLEEP
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a movement disorder that involves an intense
urge to move your legs close to bedtime. Symptoms vary and can be hard
to describe but many people complain of aching sensations in their legs
but the pain is different than a muscle cramp. The sensation usually involves
the calf muscles in your legs and is often noticed more when sitting or
lying still. Some people find relief by stretching or walking around the
room. The sensations can migrate to your arms and other parts of your
body. RLS often results in poor sleep quality and makes if difficulty
to sit still for long periods of time. Fragmented sleep patters due to
RLS can lead to anxiety and depression.
Many people who suffer from RLS also have Periodic Limb Movements of Sleep
or PLMS. These movements during sleep can be described as leg jerks or
kicks and can occur hundreds of times throughout the night. PLMS can be
frequent or occur in clusters and may also occur in the arms. Usually
you are unaware of PLMS and do not have control over them. Often, it is
your bed partner who notices this disorder. PLMS can also contribute to
poor sleep quality. Brief awakenings from sleep or “microarousals”
can occur making your sleep architecture very fragmented. As a result,
people may feel unrefreshed or complain of excessive daytime sleepiness.
What causes RLS/PLMS?
Researchers believe deficiencies in the neurotransmitter dopamine may play
a role in this disorder. The following conditions may also be associated
with a cause: Low iron levels, Circulatory problems in your legs, Neuropathy
in the spine or legs, muscle disorders, kidney problems, alcoholism, vitamin
and mineral deficiencies.
How is RLS/PLMS Diagnosed?
Diagnosis may require visiting with a sleep disorder specialist or neurologist.
Blood work and overnight sleep studies are typically involved in making
a diagnosis. Having these common symptoms can indicate that you have RLS:
- Intense urge to move your legs
- Aching or crawling sensations in your legs
- Symptoms are worse when sitting or lying down
- Leg movement relieves symptoms
- Symptoms are worse in the evening or close to bedtime
How is RLS/PLMS Treated?
The first step involves ruling out any underlying cause such as iron deficiency,
diabetes or arthritis. Medications can be an effective means of treatment
once the condition has been detected. Other home remedies such as hot
baths, massage, heat, ice, pain relievers, and exercise can help alleviate
the symptoms. Your physician will help you determine what the best treatment
options are for you.