What drugs are used for leg cramps?
Quinine is the most widely known drug used to treat leg cramps, even though it's not approved for this use by the FDA. Many patients have used quinine and swear by it, but there are downsides. For a small number of people, quinine causes serious side effects like severe bleeding and heart problems. Unfortunately, no one can predict who will have a problem with quinine. You and your healthcare professional should discuss the benefits and risks of quinine before you decide to try it. During this discussion, your doctor may mention other possible serious side effects such as kidney failure, hypersensitivity/skin reactions, vision and hearing problems, muscle pain or weakness, and difficulty breathing.
There are other drugs that are sometimes tried for leg cramps, but there is no good proof that they are helpful. Some people drink tonic water because it contains quinine. But tonic water doesn't have enough quinine in it to help with leg cramps. Pain relievers like acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) or ibuprofen (e.g., Advil) can help make you more comfortable, but they don't prevent leg cramps.
What should I know if I'm already taking quinine?
For starters, if you already take quinine, you may begin to pay more for your medicine very soon. Because of some new FDA requirements, most quinine products will no longer be available by June 2007. Qualaquin, the product that will remain on the market, will cost much more than those quinine products which are being removed from market.
Quinine can cause stomach upset. To lessen the risk of this, take quinine with some food. If you are taking quinine at bedtime, drink a glass of water or milk with it. In some patients, quinine may cause vision changes. Make sure you know how you'll react to this medicine before you drive.
Tell your healthcare professional immediately if you have any of the following problems:
What can I do to prevent leg cramps from happening? Often, leg cramps can be prevented with some simple lifestyle changes. By following the suggestions below, the need for medications may be avoided.