Children's Hospital Colorado

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) and Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD)

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What are restless leg syndrome (RLS) and periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD)?

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a condition that causes a strong urge to move the legs. This urge to move may be accompanied by other uncomfortable sensations felt inside the legs that are difficult for children to describe. The uncomfortable sensation and urge to move are made worse by rest or lying down and are temporarily relieved by walking or moving the legs.

Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) is periodic episodes of repetitive limb movements that occur during sleep. Periodic limb movements in sleep (PLMS) are brief jerks of the foot or leg, typically every 20 to 40 seconds. They can be identified during a sleep study known as polysomnography. PLMD is often associated with RLS but can occur by itself.

What causes RLS and PLMD?

In some cases, a gene causes this problem. So, it's common for another family member to have RLS.

An important chemical in the brain that helps control motion called dopamine may be low in children with both RLS and PLMD. Children with early-onset RLS may show evidence of an iron deficiency in the brain. Iron is required for proper dopamine activity in the nervous system.

Who gets RLS and PLMD?

RLS symptoms often begin during childhood or adolescence. About 35% of patients report RLS before age 20, and 10% tell doctors that their symptoms appeared by age 10.

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Get to know our pediatric experts.

Ann Halbower, MD

Ann Halbower, MD

Pulmonology - Pediatric, Sleep Medicine

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Jean Milholland, PA-C

Jean Milholland, PA-C

Physician Assistant

Bridget Raleigh, FNP-BC

Bridget Raleigh, FNP-BC

Certified Family Nurse Practitioner

Paul Stillwell, MD

Paul Stillwell, MD

Pulmonology - Pediatric, Pediatrics