Is it possible that I have Periodic Limb Movement Disorder instead of sleep apnea?

This question was asked in Staten Island, New York on 09/18/2012.
I had 2 sleep studies (one without mask, 2nd with) where results said I had severe sleep apnea but I only slept for 1 hour with each study. For multiple reasons I went to a different doctor who decided to conduct a 3rd study where I slept for over 5 hours and results said I DID NOT have apnea but a condition called Periodic Limb Movement Disorder. How can a sleep study reveal different results like this? I have now been referred to a neurologist. I feel so untrusting at this point. I am very confused as which diagnosis is correct.

Doctors Answers (2)

J. Douglas Hudson, MD, DABSM
Answered on: 9/20/2012

To have a diagnosis of SEVERE sleep apnea followed by a sleep study which did not reveal evidence of sleep apnea is unusual. Your sleep study during which you only slept for an hour is possibly not diagnostic. Any board certified sleep specialist should be able to treat your PLMD although there are some sleep doctors such as pulmonologists and ENT doctors who often limit their practice to only treating sleep apnea may feel more comfortable referring you to a neurologist. PLMD is usually easily treated. A sleep specialist who is also a neurologist would be your best referral source.

Gary K. Zammit, Ph.D.
Answered on: 9/20/2012

Don't lose trust! The differential diagnosis between sleep apnea and periodic limb movement disorder can be difficult to make. In some cases, sleep apnea produces limb movements (due to arousal to breathe), making the diagnostic work a bit more complicated. The main thing is to continue on the path of evaluation and treatment until you find resolution. Selecting a provider who is board certified in sleep medicine, and going to an accredited sleep disorders center helps to ensure that you are getting state-of-the-art care.