Neuropathy vs RLS

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Cattolico
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Neuropathy vs RLS

Post by Cattolico »

Can someone explain the difference between neuropathy and RLS? Are they even related? Can you mistake one for the other? I've googled the subjects, and wound up even more confused.

Thanks.

ViewsAskew
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Post by ViewsAskew »

They are not related to answer the easy question.

As I understand it from my diabetic BIL, there are many types of neuropathy. The one we talk about most is peripheral neuropathy, but things like carpal tunnel syndrome are a type of neuropathy.

As to how they feel....

To me, neuropathy is best described as a fast, quick, stinging sensation. Something like getting stung by a bee. Not as painful as a bee, but that same sharp, fast sting. It can continue doing it, or just do it once or twice and stop. Walking or moving doesn't necessarily make it stop. My BIL describes having tingling and numbness.

Neuropathy can be anywhere, as far as I know, but it's often in the feet of diabetics, for example, or in the hands. That, I think, is typical of peripheral neuropathy.

RLS doesn't cause numbness or that kind of tingling. It's also not usually a sharp pain - the people with pain speak of an ache. With RLS, the feeling is removed with movement. You keep moving, it goes away. Neuropathy might go away, but it's just chance; it could just as well continue to hurt while you move.

RLS also follows a circadian rhythm. It can happen (and does) during the day, but it's worst at night, while neuropathy hurts any time.

I have mild peripheral neuropathy and it's very fast. RLS is slow. and it builds. The neuropathy catches me off guard and the flash of pain is so quick, it's gone in 3 seconds. The RLS builds for sometimes minutes until it's unbearable. The RLS also stays with me more constantly.

Not sure this helps, but hope it does.
Ann - Take what you need, leave the rest

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badnights
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Post by badnights »

There's no known cause-and-effect relationship, but I think peripheral neuropathy is more common in RLSers than in the general population. No one know why. There was also one study in which they found nerve damage on biopsy in most of the RLSers they examined (but it was a very small number and no controls). Again no cause or effect.

This is just nonsense detail. If you're trying to figure out which you have, Ann's descriptions are much more useful. Have you checked out the four diagnostic criteria for RLS/Ekbom disease? You need all four to be diagnosed with the disorder.

Wayne
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Post by Wayne »

My first neurologist thought it was neuropathy, thinking it was a long-term side effect of chemo treatments, which I verified by doing some research on the drugs I was administered for my chemo treatments. I was prescribed neurontin, which worked for about 3 months and then stopped working. I still take it because it does help.

I fired that first neuro when the neurontin stopped working and he refused to move onto another treatment or even consider the research I had been doing plus some questionable business practices to squeeze more money out of me/my insurance, but that's a story I already posted.

My current neuro says it's just RLS, but truly I don't know what to believe anymore. I take neurontin 300mg 3 times a day which helps, and a .5mg Klonipin at bedtime which lets me maintain a fairly regular wake/sleep cycle, but I still can't just sit or lay still and feel relaxed. I really would like to get 100% relief some day.

badnights
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Post by badnights »

Lord, that would be something. 100% relief. Here's to that - someday, somehow, and soon!

badnights
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Post by badnights »

Cattolico, the anti-convulsant drugs like Neurontin are used for both neuropathy and RLS.

Cattolico
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Post by Cattolico »

Thank you all for the explanations. I have had RLS for nearly 7 years. It has the classic symptoms. And my google results do give a definition of neuropathy.

But I can find nothing about the difference between RLS and an underlying neuropathy which causes RLS symptoms. Maybe that's a better way to phrase my original question. This seemed like an important distinction, because some apparent RLS cases might then be treated by addressing the neuropathy.

From your replies, it appears that if there IS an underlying neuropathy then you will have the sharp quicker pains in addition to the RLS symptoms. Is this correct?

Polar Bear
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Post by Polar Bear »

Ann - thanks for your explanation on the difference between neuropathy and rls/ekd. This type of an explanation using simple wording is so useful.
Betty
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badnights
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Post by badnights »

Cattolico, I am not sure what the answer to your quesiton is; Ann probably knows.

I can tell you that you're on the right track; some researchers have wondered whether underlying neuropathy might cause RLS, but no one has any idea how. There is very little known about any of this and oodles of room for more research.

As for treating the underlying neuropathy, as far as I know, there's no way to make it go away, just meds to treat the pain - someone correct me if I'm wrong? and the pain is often treated with drugs like Neurontin, which happens to also be useful for RLS, and guess what? some RLS specialists have noticed that Neurontin and the other anti-convulsants are more likely to be effective in RLS that is described as painful. So ya - some kind of link there. But no one knows what it is. I wish a billionaire would donate some billions to RLS research, but meantime, I give my 20$ whenever I can.

ViewsAskew
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Post by ViewsAskew »

Cattolico wrote:Thank you all for the explanations. I have had RLS for nearly 7 years. It has the classic symptoms. And my google results do give a definition of neuropathy.

But I can find nothing about the difference between RLS and an underlying neuropathy which causes RLS symptoms. Maybe that's a better way to phrase my original question. This seemed like an important distinction, because some apparent RLS cases might then be treated by addressing the neuropathy.

From your replies, it appears that if there IS an underlying neuropathy then you will have the sharp quicker pains in addition to the RLS symptoms. Is this correct?


I don't think anyone knows the answer to your question. As you can see by this completed research project, they just have more questions and have more studies to do!

It could be that people who have neuropathy who also have RLS genes get some weird involvement like this. Time and dollars - it's going to take both to find answers to all this.

To answer the last question, at least as how I experience it, the symptoms of neuropathy are identified:
1. Sharper, faster, hotter
2. Any time of the day just as strongly as any other (vs RLS which definitely is worse at night)
3. No urge to move. I move inadvertently, but it's missing that underlying anxiety that comes with RLS that makes me feel I MUST move around and NOW
4. The underlying feeling associated with neuropathy isn't really anything, other than annoyance or then feeling the pain. RLS, for me, has an underlying anxiety, a build that is unmistakable, that is very consuming.
Ann - Take what you need, leave the rest

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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.

Cattolico
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Post by Cattolico »

Thank you all. It is very helpful information.

Cattolico
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Post by Cattolico »

One other thought. What prompted my question was the fact that so many people notice an effect on their RLS symptoms by factors that do not seem to be related to RLS, or to each other. Or at least not known to be.

I know one person whose RLS disappeared after eliminating concentrated sugar from her diet. And she's not selling a book either. One guy greatly reduces his symptoms by frequent urination. Another by stretching the muscles of her hips. Many of us see our symptoms at least affected by various foods. And of course there is the iron link, which has been clinically tested.

To me, diet seems the logical culprit for the majority of non-iron related cases. Not by clinical evidence. And not only because so many RLS sufferers observe the cause and effect of diet. But also because of the apparent increase of RLS observations in the last 50 years. And because of the changes in food processing, packing, and preservatives which have occurred during that time. All of which made me think in terms of various underlying causes.

ViewsAskew
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Post by ViewsAskew »

Until they figure out the exact nature of RLS, it's all guesswork, I suppose.

I also think it's important to remember that for every person who writes online that something helped him or her, there are probably gazillions for whom that same thing didn't work and they didn't say anything. We seem to like to talk about what did work, not about what didn't. We also have no idea if what they person thinks is working, really does work!

Sooooo many variables....makes it hard to make sense of 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.

badnights
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Post by badnights »

I wonder if RLS is actually more prevalent, or if we simply make note of it more, now that it has a name and clinical description. Think about how many of us lived with it for years and thought it was just a part of life. That was probably even more common pre-Ekbom.

I agree it's tempting to wonder about neurotoxins in the environment. Doing exactly that, I decided to eliminate meat and dairy from my diet in January. I've gotten pneumonia twice since then, though I never had it before in my life. Yet I would never claim that a vegan diet causes pneumonia; it was just a temporal coincidence. I've added meat and dairy back, because it's just too darn hard to gain back the weight I lost without it! I'd like to see more real science on toxins in our food, tho.

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