ver the course of her life, Josephine Geluso had experienced pain before. Yet nothing could have prepared her for the agony of
a condition that caused no pain whatsoever.
Michael Weinstein, MD, Director of Winthrop's Sleep Disorders Center, examines patient Josephine Geluso, who has experienced complete relief from Restless Legs Syndrome with Dr. Weinstein's help.
"Creepy crawling...restlessness...you feel like you must move, you have to move," said Mrs. Geluso, describing the symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome, a condition that is estimated to affect five-to-15 percent of the population. With symptoms that typically worsen at night, Mrs. Geluso found that the syndrome destroyed her quality of life by robbing her of sleep, leaving her so exhausted during the day that she was unable to interact with her family.
Fortunately, Mrs. Geluso found swift relief from Michael Weinstein, MD, Director of the Sleep Disorders Center in Winthrop's Institute for Lung Care.
"Restless Legs Syndrome can affect anyone - men or women of any age," explained Dr. Weinstein. "Because physicians are often unaware of the syndrome, some patients live with the condition for many years before they get a diagnosis."
Mrs. Geluso's symptoms were typical. Most patients report an unpleasant, creepy, crawly sensation in the legs, worsening in the evening or at bedtime. Move-ment of the toes, feet, or legs provides the only relief.
The causes of RLS are not fully understood. "Anemia, kidney disorders, and spinal cord problems such as disk injuries may play a role," Dr. Weinstein noted. "There is also some evidence that RLS is related to dopamine, a brain chemical linked to other movement disorders." Sometimes lifestyle modifications such as the elimination of caffeine, alcohol, or cigarette smoking seem to improve symptoms. There are also medications that effectively improve symptoms.
RLS is often accompanied by another sleep disturbance, Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD). PLMD involves jerking movements that typically occur at 20 to 30 second intervals throughout the night. While the person with PLMD may be unaware of these nighttime movements, they cause partial arousal from sleep and can result in daytime fatigue.
A former Olympic contender in swimming and graduate of Teacher's College at Columbia University, Mrs. Geluso had been enjoying her retirement in excellent health until her symptoms suddenly began. "When this hit me, it was like the bottom dropped out," Mrs. Geluso explained. "I wasn't interested in going anyplace. I was sleeping maybe two hours a night. It was terrible."
To alleviate the restless sensation in her legs, Mrs. Geluso tried rubbing them, elevating them, and even reading until she was so exhausted she thought sleep would come. Her only relief was walking, so she spent her nights pacing for hours while her family slept.
A local support group led her to Winthrop's Sleep Disorders Center and Dr. Weinstein. "He gave me a new life," Mrs. Geluso said. With her classic symptoms, Dr. Weinstein was able to make a diagnosis at Mrs. Geluso's first appointment. He prescribed a medication that alleviated the problem almost immediately.
"He knew what to ask, he understood what I was talking about," Mrs. Geluso remembered. "There was no question in his mind that I was suffering from RLS."
Mrs. Geluso was also impressed with Dr. Weinstein's compassionate approach to patient care. "He is kind and he listens," she said. "Above all, he is competent. If you call him, he will always call you back with sympathy and understanding. He is very special."
To further investigate the possible link between RLS and renal disorders, Dr. Weinstein and his colleague, Maritza Groth, MD, are working with Steven Fishbane, MD, Director of Dialysis at Winthrop on a clinical study. The research project will measure the effectiveness of a new anemia medication in treating RLS in patients with renal dysfunction.
For additional information on this study, RLS, or Winthrop's Sleep Disorders Center, please call the Institute for Lung Care at (516) 663-3907.