Tribune Print Share Text

Can leg cramps be a sign of something serious?

Created date

October 26th, 2010

Nighttime leg cramps are involuntary muscle contractions that typically involve the calf muscles but may also affect your thighs or feet. Most of the time, they are harmless and occur because of dehydration, certain medications, muscle fatigue, or mineral imbalances in your body. In rare instances, however, nighttime leg cramps could be a sign of peripheral artery disease or diabetes. See your doctor if you are losing a lot of sleep due to cramps, or are also having muscle weakness. Seek immediate medical attention if you have severe, persistent leg cramps. If your leg cramps are not caused by a serious illness, try drinking plenty of fluids, stretching your leg muscles before bed, and wearing shoes that have good support. When a leg cramp happens, try flexing your foot up towards your head, walking around, or massaging the muscle. A hot bath or shower may help too.

Taking quinine for leg cramps is risky

Some people useQualaquin(quinine sulfate) to prevent or treat nighttime leg cramps or restless legs syndrome. This medication, however, is only FDA-approved for the treatment of a certain type of malaria. Malaria is an infection caused by a parasite. The Food and Drug Administration has received reports of serious side effects associated with quinine sulfate when it is used for leg problems. Among these are blood-related side effects that have resulted in kidney damage, hospitalizations, and even two deaths. If you are taking quinine sulfate for leg cramps, talk to your doctor about other treatment options.