Apnea and PLMD

For everything and anything else not covered in the other RLS sections.
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Post by PJ »

I have been reading the posts on this site dating back to 2004 and it has provided me with a wealth of information. Yesterday I went to a Sleep Lab and had a polysomnography done last night. I was diagnosed with RSL / PLMD in 1997 but have had the symptoms of jumpy legs forever. In 1997 I was put on CPAP for sleep apnea and was told to lose weight. I had gastric bypass surgery in 1998 and the insurance company would no longer pay for the CPAP machine. It was taken away the day after surgery. The sleep test last night confirmed that I still have sleep apnea and the new doctor says there is new research showing that sleep apnea and PLMD are linked. Patients that are using CPAP or BIPAP do not experience the leg movement with sleep. Has anyone here heard this ?

My RLS has worsened in the last two years with severe painful feet and leg spasms and cramping. The spasms and cramping happen most often after physical exertion -- climbing stairs, lot of walking. Very hot baths and heating pads help...but do others of you take pain medication for these symptoms ? I am wondering if I should ask the doctor for something to relieve the pain when it does happen.

You are a wonderful and supportive group and providing this information has saved the sanity of many, including myself. I am very thankful that you take the time to help us that are less informed and in need of guidance.

I recommended this site to my brother and a cousin who also have been diagnosed. Sadly it is too late to help my grandmother and father. But I know you will be there for my son and his chilldren. Yes I passed it to another generation but at least he will be better informed than I.

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Post by Aiken »


Is there any way you could find out from your doctor where he read that apnea and RLS may be related?

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Post by Rubyslipper »

Sleep apnea or hypopnia (lowered oxygen levels in the blood) are both quite frequently treated by using the CPAP machne. I'v been on one for over a year now. Both apnea and hypopnia can cause several things to happen to your body. They're hard on your heart, your blood pressure and the lack of oxygen cause tremendous stress on all your body. From what I have read, this could make RLS/PLMD worse but I've never read that they were really related. That's an interesting idea. Anyone else heard/read about this? I think I may do some research on my own about it.
You've always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself! (Glinda of Oz)

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Post by sugbrendas »

I was diagnosed with hypopnia during a sleep study.
I don't have apnea just the low oxygen levels.

My insurance co. wanted to charge me $150 a month for oxygen so i went on eBay and bought a o2 concentrator for only $400.
Too bad they've done away with selling them..It paid for itself in no time!

Anyway it was brand new in the box with a warranty.
I was with Kiaser, now with bc/bs so i need to check out what they pay.

I really don't think apnea and RLS are connected but i think it's more diagnosed for us b/c we get sleep studies and it happens to pick it up.
I could be wrong.
Finally able to sleep on average 9 hours a night!

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Post by PJ »

I will check with his office about the research. He did say that it was thought at the time of my first testing in 1997-98 that they were separate entities and they are finding that sleep apnea (periods of not breathing lasting from seconds to minutes) and PLMD are thought to be related. There seems to be a correlation between the stopping of breathing...legs move....breathing starts. It is thought that the movement is the body's own mechanism to restart the breathing cycle. Sleep apnea is also associated with hypoxia (low blood oxygen levels or commonly called low O2 saturation) and PLMD. I do not have the hypoxia, but do experience the apnea multiple times during the night and according to the technician who witnessed the events and was doing the documentation...each time I stopped breathing my legs began moving and I started to breathe again. in 1998 I was on CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) without oxygen. I should find out within a week the plan of action now. I have been taking Clonazepam which was supposed to suppress the PLMD but obviously did not. Was hospitalized the end of March because I was not sleeping (2 hours maximum for 3 days -- for 3 weeks prior only 3-4 hours a night). Began Ambien to knock me out.....but it only works half the time. I am surprised that an insurance company would not pay for oxygen is the sleep study supported your needing it. I agree that having sleep apnea is very hard on the body...causes an enlarged heart and burns brain cells (permanent memory loss)....among multiple organ failures. I am glad I have guardian angels that watch over me....I am a very lucky person.

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Post by PJ »

sorry Aiken, it is sleep apnea and PLMD that are related....not RLS. I do have RLS also but that is not associated.

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Post by ViewsAskew »

I think, if I understand it corectly, that we may be all confusing PLM with RLS and assuming the PLMs are ONLY associated with RLS.

I haven't seen stats for a long time, but when I first starting researching about RLS, I saw on several sites that while 80% or so of us with RLS have PLMD, only 25% of those with PLMD have RLS.

What this means is that PLMD can happen all alone or with other diseases. I also read a few years ago that PLMs are common with apnea. Often, they stop with CPAP or BiPAP - so I have read. I am not familiar with whether it always stops though. My guess is that is doesn't = because it would depend on the cause of the PLMs. If you have RLS and PLMD, treating the apnea would not affect it - you already have those movements and they are not related to the apnea. But, that is TOTALLY just a guess.

PLMs, by definition, do not cause problems for everyone who have them. Many people have PLMs and are not bothered. Only those who are bothered by them need treatment. By bothered, I mean that they cause micro-arrousals just like apnea does. These arrousals keep the person from getting deep sleep - stages 3 and 4 - and keep them in stage 2 for too much of the night. So, it's also possible to have them and not need any medication or help.

Per the pain, PJ, some people do take pain meds. From what I see on the boards, though, this is one of the hardest fights. Docs often think that RLS does not have a pain component. So, they either say you have fibro, and then treat the pain. Or, they say you are "interpreting" the RLS as pain and hope the RLS meds help. I don't have pain, but I am certain that some people have true pain with RLS. And, from those that post here, I am also pretty certain the pain meds are a way to resolve it. However, Lynne has recently had very good luck using acupuncture to stop the pain - doesn't help the RLS, but does really reduce the pain.

Talk to your doc and see what he/she says. Hopefully he or she will agree that pain can occur and will help you resolve it.
Ann - Take what you need, leave the rest

Managing Your RLS

Opinions presented by Discussion Board Moderators are personal in nature and do not, in any way, represent the opinion of the RLS Foundation, and are not medical advice.

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Post by Aiken »

PJ wrote:sorry Aiken, it is sleep apnea and PLMD that are related....not RLS. I do have RLS also but that is not associated.

You're right, of course. My bad, I didn't read carefully enough.

I can see how apnea could cause some thrashing as your body and mind are startled into getting the lungs in gear, but as mentioned, that would be a different sort of PMLD.

Thanks. :)
Disclaimer: I often talk about what I do and what works for me, but these are specific to me and you should always consult a healthcare professional before trying these things yourself, lest you endanger your health or life.

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Post by RestlessKS »

I have Sleep Apnea, RLS, and PLMD. They have been trying to find the right combination for the last year. Right now I am taking 1mg of Mirapex and Lunesta(sleeping aid) for the RLS and PLMD. They treat RLS and PLMD with the sames medicines. My Sleep Apnea and PLMD are severe, so even with medicine they still jerk. Plus before this I was on Requip for about 9 months and it stop working as well for me, so I had to change. I have read that medicines for RLS/PLMD can work and then with no reason stop working. Keep in very close contact with your doctor and let them know what you are experiening, so they will know how to help you. I know it can be frustrating, but don't give up hope they will find something that works for you.

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