Periodic Limb Movement Disorder: Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Medically Reviewed on 4/11/2019

Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) is a movement disorder that occurs during sleep. PLMD is also a form of sleep disorder. It often occurs with other sleep disorders, including restless legs syndrome, but the two conditions are not the same.

Signs and symptoms of periodic limb movement disorder include non-restorative sleep or poor sleep, daytime sleepiness and fatigue, and repetitive cramping and jerking of the legs during sleep. Other associated symptoms, including bending of the joints of the big toe, ankle, and knee may accompany the limb jerks at the time of the repetitive movements.

Causes of periodic limb movement disorder

The condition periodic limb movement disorder may be primary, having no known cause, or may occur as a result of conditions like diabetes, spinal cord injury, uremia, iron deficiency, and narcolepsy.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/11/2019

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