6 Medications That Cause Leg Cramps

Blog Post
By BASS Vein Center
6 Medications That Cause Leg Cramps
December 27, 2022

Leg cramps can be an elusive symptom, and oftentimes, the cause of leg cramps remains a mystery. Leg cramps can range from slightly uncomfortable to even unbearable. They can significantly reduce a person’s quality of life and can prove more than just a little disruptive. What many patients fail to realize is that many medications cause leg cramps. If you’re experiencing leg cramps as a side-effect of your medication, you deserve to know about it. Here are 6 medications that are the most common offenders of leg cramps.

Is My Medication Causing Leg Cramps? 

Several factors can cause leg cramps. For the most accurate assessment, it’s always a good idea to consult your doctor first. However, these medications are known to cause leg cramps, among other symptoms, too. If you take any of the following medications, be aware of the potential side effects:

1. Antipsychotics

Antipsychotics are prescribed to treat some mental conditions like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and others. Because antipsychotics act as strong central nervous system depressants, they can lead to muscle stiffening or cramping. Antipsychotics can lead to lethargy, fatigue, muscle weakness, and a decrease in dopamine levels. Talk to your doctor if you take antipsychotics and are experiencing severe leg cramping.

2. Short-Acting Loop Diuretics

Diuretics, also known as water pills, are prescribed to treat edema, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, and others. Diuretics are known to increase the excretion of electrolytes. Short-acting loop diuretics in particular, are named because they are rapidly eliminated from the body. These medications can cause leg cramps because they excrete sodium, potassium, and chloride through the body. Low levels of these electrolytes can cause achiness and cramping in the body.

3. Thiazide Diuretics

Similar to short-acting loop diuretics, thiazide diuretics can also deplete necessary electrolytes. This medication is most commonly prescribed to treat high blood pressure and can also cause leg and muscle cramping. If you’re taking thiazide diuretics and are experiencing leg discomfort, talk to your doctor.

4. Beta-Blockers

A commonly prescribed medication for hypertension and arrhythmias, this drug significantly slows the heart rate and lowers blood pressure by blocking adrenaline. Beta-blockers are also used to treat migraines, angina, tremors, and some forms of glaucoma. Studies have shown that beta-blockers can cause the arteries to narrow, which means less blood flow through the limbs. This creates cramping, discomfort, and sometimes cold hands and feet.

5. Beta2-Agonists

Beta2-agonists are used to relax the smooth muscles surrounding the bronchial tubes. They are typically prescribed to relieve chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). They are administered through an inhaler, or as a pill or injection. Researchers remain uncertain as to why Beta2-agonists cause leg cramps. It’s a smart idea to consult your doctor if you’re experiencing discomfort.

6. ACE Inhibitors

ACE inhibitors relax blood vessels by preventing the body from producing angiotensin II. Most often prescribed for high blood pressure, ACE inhibitors are also known to cause leg cramps through potassium buildup. This can lead to achy muscles, joints, and even bones. 

Other Potential Causes of Leg Cramps

Leg cramping, although common, can be caused by several conditions and illnesses. Other potential causes of leg cramps include, but are not limited to:

  • Thyroid issues
  • Varicose veins
  • Vascular disease
  • Cirrhosis
  • Kidney failure
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Stress
  • Low circulation
  • Too much or too little exercise

If leg cramping becomes persistent, speak with your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

BASS Vein Center Can Help

BASS Vein Center is here to meet all of your vascular needs. If your medication is causing uncomfortable leg cramps, your doctor should know about it. If you’d like to learn more about what we do or you’d like to schedule an appointment, call us at (925) 281-5912.

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