Restless Leg Syndrome vs. Peripheral Neuropathy: Which One Is It?

Restlessness or a tingling feeling in your legs while seated or discomfort in your legs when lying down could suggest either peripheral neuropathy or restless leg syndrome (RLS). It is beneficial to differentiate between these two conditions to enable you to take precautionary measures. In this article, we’ll discuss the typical symptoms of RLS and peripheral neuropathy and when it’s appropriate to consult a doctor.

Have you been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy? We can help.

Female legs in bed, closeup. Woman body and skin care, tired legs after working day or fitness workout

What is restless leg syndrome?

Restless leg syndrome is a condition that affects 10% of the US population. Also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, this condition causes an uncontrollable urge to move the legs and while painless, can be extremely uncomfortable. It is a neurological sleep disorder, as it typically happens at night.

People with RLS experience an intense urge to move their legs when they’ve been sitting or lying down for a long time. It can also happen when you’re sitting in a movie theater, on a road trip or on an airplane.

What is peripheral neuropathy?

An estimated 30 million Americans suffer from a type of peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy is a condition marked by the degeneration of peripheral sensory nerves that result from a complication of a certain disease or injury. It is a nerve disorder. Symptoms vary from patient to patient and include: tingling, numbness, hypersensitivity and intense, jarring pain in the extremities.

What is the difference between peripheral neuropathy and restless leg syndrome?

Although the two conditions can have similar symptoms, they are quite different from each other.

People with RLS have an irresistible urge to move their legs along with a “creepy and crawling” sensation, while people with neuropathy often describe their pain as “electric, jabbing and throbbing.” The pain from peripheral neuropathy is mostly felt in the hands, legs and feet, but unlike RLS, it can also affect any other part of the body.

RLS mainly occurs at night. Although neuropathy pain may worsen at night while lying down, it also occurs throughout the day.

How are restless leg syndrome and peripheral neuropathy diagnosed?

There is no specific test to detect RLS. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), the five basic criteria used to clinically diagnose RLS are as follows:

  • A strong and overwhelming urge to move your legs, often accompanied by abnormal, unpleasant, or uncomfortable sensations.
  • The urge to move your legs begins or intensifies during periods of rest or inactivity.
  • The urge to move your legs is temporarily and partially or completely relieved by movement.
  • The urge to move your legs starts or worsens in the evening or at night.
  • The above four features are not attributable to any other medical or behavioral condition.

Additionally, a physical examination along with your past medical history can also help your physician diagnose the condition.

Peripheral neuropathy is caused by various underlying conditions such as diabetes, HIV and chemotherapy. Identifying and treating the underlying condition can help with treating neuropathy symptoms. Diagnostic tests include neurological exams, image testing, blood tests and nerve and skin biopsies. A full medical history, along with blood tests, can also help identify the primary cause of the underlying neuropathy symptoms.

When should I visit the doctor?

While restless leg syndrome and peripheral neuropathy may not be life-threatening, these conditions can be bothersome. Doctors may have a hard time diagnosing both RLS and peripheral neuropathy since there is no single test for diagnosing either. If you’re experiencing symptoms, contact your healthcare provider to rule out other conditions.

WinSanTor is a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on the discovery and development of treatments for peripheral neuropathies. We believe in creating a solution that works and brings relief to millions that are struggling with this disease. Learn more about our companyour drug and subscribe to our newsletter.


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Have you been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy? We can help.