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Periodic Limb Movement Disorder

How Is It Diagnosed?

Periodic limb movement disorder is diagnosed based on a person's symptoms and on the results of a sleep monitor test. Doctors will diagnose a person with periodic limb movement disorder if this person is experiencing daytime fatigue and sleepiness or insomnia, and if the sleep monitor test finds that the person is experiencing repetitive leg movements.
 

The Impact of Periodic Limb Movement Disorder

Periodic limb movement disorder can have a profound negative impact on quality of life, specifically as it relates to daytime functioning, work performance, and social and family life.
 

Treatment Options

There is no cure for periodic limb movement disorder, so treatment is focused on relieving symptoms, increasing the amount and quality of sleep, and treating or correcting any underlying condition that may be causing the disorder.
 
Healthcare providers may prescribe medicine for symptom relief, including:
 
  • Dopaminergic agents, which are drugs that are mainly used to treat Parkinson's disease. These medications have been shown to reduce periodic limb movement disorder symptoms and are considered the initial treatment. Even though these medications help reduce symptoms, PLMD is not a form of Parkinson's disease.
 
  • Benzodiazepines, which are drugs that depress the central nervous system and allow people to sleep more, despite periodic limb movement disorder symptoms. They should not be used by people with sleep apnea (brief periods of interrupted breathing during sleep).
 
  • Anticonvulsants, which are medications that are used to treat epilepsy. These medicines may be used to treat periodic limb movement disorder when dopaminergics fail. Possible side effects include dizziness, fatigue, and sleepiness.
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