What Causes Leg Cramps At Night?

December 28, 2015
Leg Cramps At Night

Also called nocturnal leg cramps, night leg cramps are involuntary aching, spasms or contractions of the muscles within the legs. Usually, night leg cramps involve only the calves; however, they can involve the thighs and feet, as well.
Typically harmless, most night leg cramps can be attributed to minor nerve problems or muscle fatigue. That said, in rare instances, they could be a sign of a more serious, underlying disorder.
Notable Causes
Although anyone can experience occasional leg cramps at night, older people and pregnant women are more at risk. Certain drugs have also been linked to nocturnal legs cramps. These include naproxen, estrogens and intravenous iron. Other potential causes, include:

  • Spinal stenosis
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Blood pressure medications
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Diuretics
  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins)
  • Dehydration
  • Dialysis
  • Diarrhea
  • Nerve damage
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Pregnancy
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Metabolic problems
  • Cirrhosis
  • Addison's disease (adrenal insufficiency)
  • Hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Chronic kidney disease

When to See a Doctor
While occasional leg cramping isn't usually a problem, persistent cramping should not go ignored. See your doctor if you have severe or persistent cramping; experience cramps after being exposed to a toxin such as lead; have difficulty functioning during the day; or develop muscle weakness or atrophy in addition to cramps.

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