In one of the responses on the website, a reader asked me if neuropathy and restless leg syndrome are the same. I already knew that the symptoms are similar, but also that it is not the same condition. So it is good to take a closer look at this.

I have searched for answers to the following questions:

  1. What is neuropathy?
  2. What are the causes?
  3. What are the differences between neuropathy and restless legs?

What is neuropathy

In search of a good description of neuropathy I end up on the website Moving Without Pain (Bewegen Zonder Pijn). I already knew this website for information about osteoarthritis. Neuropathy, like osteoarthritis, has consequences for the musculoskeletal system. It also happens that someone has several conditions at the same time.

On this website I read the following definition: Neuropathy is the collective name for all disorders that are caused by the malfunctioning of one or more nerves. As a result, the muscles and the feeling can no longer work fully.

You can further distinguish between:

  • Mononeuropathy
  • Polyneuropathy

If only one nerve is affected, it is called mononeuropathy. If several nerves are not functioning properly, it is called polyneuropathy.

Most of the time, the disturbance occurs at the ends of nerves. This may include:

  • Sensory nerves
  • Motor nerves

Symptoms of a neuropathy of sensory nerves are numbness in the limbs, tingling, pain in the touch, balance disorders and a changing sensation. In neuropathy of motor nerves, the symptoms are cramps, muscle loss and muscle weakness. A combination of sensory and motor nerve neuropathy also occurs.

There are many types of polyneuropathies. Some can be treated with drugs, others not. The cause of polyneuropathy cannot always be determined.


Polyneuropathy can have different causes. According to Muscle Diseases Netherlands (Spierziekten Nederland) they can be divided in:

  1. Problems in the metabolism (for example diabetes or diseases of the thyroid or kidneys)
  2. Deficiencies in certain substances (often vitamins)
  3. Excessive alcohol use or medicine use (for example, drugs against cancer)
  4. Hereditary
  5. Infection (e.g. HIV, Leprosy or Lyme disease)
  6. Autoimmune Diseases
  7. Unknown cause

The Institute for Neuropathic Pain supplements this information. Here a distinction is made between peripheral and central neuropathy.

In peripheral neuropathy, the sensory nerve from the skin to the spinal cord is damaged. Central neuropathy involves damage to the sensory nerve in the spinal cord or in the brain.

Peripheral neuropathy often occurs with a deficiency or too much of something. For example too much sugar, too much vitamin B6 or too much alcohol. Or too much chemotherapy. Examples of a deficiency are vitamin B12 and too little thyroid hormone.

Differences between neuropathy and restless legs

At first glance, you might think that restless leg syndrome is a form of neuropathy. However, this is not the case. Restless legs and neuropathy are isolated conditions. They can occur in one person at the same time though.

A clear difference is that the complaints of neuropathy are constantly present. With restless legs, there are mainly symptoms in inactivity and rest, such as lying and sitting.

A second difference is that with neuropathy, symptoms are not reduced by movement. In fact, this can actually make them worse. Restless legs are known for reduced symptoms through (mild) physical activity.

A third difference is that the complaints of neuropathy are mainly described as pain. Pain is also sometimes mentioned with restless legs, but more often there is an unpleasant feeling.

The pain from neuropathy is described as burning, firing, electric, or stinging. The emphasis in restless leg syndrome is mainly on an unpleasant feeling which causes an irresistible urge to move the legs.

Does this all make it more clear for you?

5 thoughts on “Neuropathy”

  1. Oh ik heb al jaren de 2 klachten geopereerd maar het heeft niet geholpen omdat ze dachten dat het rusteloze benen waren nu 2 jaar later is het veel ergergeworden ik word er gek van zo erg ik had een briefje geschreven wat ik in een week meemaakte en toen geloofde de arts mij wat moet ik doen ik ben radeloos .mvr korst.

  2. Mijn neuropathy begon 12 jaar geleden in mn tenen klom langzaam naar boven
    En is nu zo erg dat ik jeuk en prikkelingen in mn voetzolen, voeten en benen heb
    Is niet uit te houden. De pijn begint nu ook aan de zijkant van mn knieen en bovenbenen. Wat moet ik doen?

    • Wat vervelend dat je neuropathische klachten hebt. Ik kan je niet adviseren wat je moet doen. Dat kan een neuroloog wel, vermoedelijk.

  3. Dank je wel voor dit bericht, heb het gelezen en ga meteen een afspraak maken met de huisarts. Want zoals beschreven staat voel ik me meer passen in het plaatje neuropathie. En dat komt ontzettend veel voor bij ons in de familie


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