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Quinine for Leg Cramps

Quinine for Leg Cramps

Administering quinine for leg cramps is effective to some extent but the side effects are severe and, at times, life-threatening. Hence, therapeutic use of quinine is considered only if the patient has severe pain, and recurrent muscle cramps.
Ningthoujam Sandhyarani
Last Updated: Mar 7, 2018
Many people experience painful leg cramps, especially at nighttime, which disturb their normal sleep. The use of quinine for leg cramps has been practiced for several years. Nevertheless, it is not an approved medication for leg cramps, or associated conditions. Quinine sulfate or simply, quinine is recommended for therapeutic intervention of malaria, a parasitic disease.
Effectiveness
The therapeutic properties of quinine in the body are antimalarial, analgesic and anti-inflammatory. In order to reap these benefits, many doctors prescribe quinine tablets for relieving muscle cramps, after analyzing severity of the condition. No doubt, patients experience reduction in pain intensity and frequency of leg cramps. But, risks accompanying these medication should not be overlooked while using it for muscle cramps.
The borderline for safe dose of quinine is very narrow; a tablet before going to sleep is usually prescribed for patients with recurrent leg cramps. However, even a slight increase in dosage results in serious after effects. At any point of time, self administration of over-the-counter quinine sulfate should be avoided. For such a case, one should immediately consult a trusted doctor for alternative nocturnal leg cramps treatment protocol.
In addition to pills and tablets, quinine water for leg cramps is available as over-the-counter tonic water. It contains very low dose of quinine (83 parts per million), which is considered safe for patients. Bitter in taste, other ingredients used in the beverage are citric acid, carbonated water and sodium benzoate, amongst others. In addition to using tonic water for leg cramps, most cocktail lovers add it in preparation of mixed drinks.
Truly speaking, advocating quinine for leg cramps is not approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). The reason is severe quinine side effects which, at times, cause death of the patient. There is only one FDA approved quinine containing drug in the market, called Qualaquin. But, it is exclusively used for treating malaria and not for nocturnal leg cramps. Hence, even if it is effective for alleviating pain symptoms, quinine should be avoided, as far as possible.
Side Effects
A doubtful question raised by patients is, the FDA approval of quinine use for malaria, while banning the same for nocturnal leg cramps. The reason lies in the severity of the disease and side effects of quinine. As we all know, malaria is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention. Hence, effectiveness of using quinine for malaria outweighs the side effects of the same. While severe adverse effects cannot be neglected, in case of administering quinine for leg cramps.
Probable side effects are nausea, headaches, asthma outbreaks, ringing in ears, easy bruising and blurred vision. Other severe problems that may be associated with quinine use include, irregular heartbeat, chest pain, liver damage, bleeding, hemorrhage, blood clotting disorder and thrombocytopenia. Usage of quinine tablets for leg cramps is strictly not recommended for expecting mothers, as it can lead to miscarriage and poor pregnancy outcome.
People who have previous medical history of quinine allergy, optic neuritis and anemia should not take quinine pills. Taking a note of the side effects reported after using quinine for leg cramps, the FDA has strictly banned production and marketing of non-approved quinine formulations. Instead of dealing with the risk factors, one can follow self-care tips to minimize painful muscle cramps during sleep, like, application of warm compresses, massage therapy and stretching exercises for calf muscles.
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