Leg cramps are common in the elderly, diabetics, and pregnant women but can occur in healthy individuals and athletes.

Clinical Presentation
A leg cramp is a painful involuntary muscular contraction. It usually occurs in the calf or foot.

It is important to note that there is a significant difference between a leg cramp and a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). A DVT is a serious life-threatening condition. It is a clot in one of the main veins of the legs. It is usually of sudden onset, pain in the calf. Before you assume that what you have is just leg cramps, consult your physician. A Doppler of the lower extremities (to check the blood flow) may be needed.

Possible Solutions:

  • Calcium/calcium magnesium supplements: There are a number of calcium products available over the counter. Women require 1200 mg of calcium a day in their diet. 400 mg of magnesium may also be of benefit.
  • Quinine and Tonic Water:
    Several small studies concluded that quinine was effective in providing relief from nocturnal leg cramps. Doses in these studies ranged from 200-300 mg, given once daily at bedtime. As with many medications, quinine has the potential for serious side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tinnitus, and thrombocytopenia (rare). Because of these serious side effects, over-the-counter quinine was removed from the market by the FDA, Quinine is available by prescription only in 260 mg capsules and 300 mg tablets. Tonic water may be taken either by itself or mixed with another liquid such as water or orange juice.

Some drugs can cause an increase in the loss of magnesium in the urine that can lead to hypomagnesemia. Diuretics, oral contraceptives, tetracycline antibiotics, cholestyramine, and prednisone may be included.

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