Most of the time, no apparent cause for night leg cramps can be identified. In general, night leg cramps are likely to be related to muscle fatigue and nerve problems.
The risk of having night leg cramps increases with age. Pregnant women also have a higher likelihood of having night leg cramps.
Several conditions, such as kidney failure and diabetic nerve damage, are known to cause night leg cramps. But if you have one of these, you're most likely aware of it and have symptoms other than night leg cramps.
People who are taking certain medications, such as certain diuretics, might be more likely to have night leg cramps, although it's not known if there's a direct connection.
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is sometimes confused with night leg cramps, but it's a separate condition. In general, pain is not a main feature of RLS, although some people describe their RLS as being painful.
Other conditions that may sometimes be associated with night leg cramps may include:
- Peripheral artery disease
- Spinal stenosis
- Addison's disease
- Chronic kidney disease
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
- Type 1 diabetes
- Type 2 diabetes
Medications and procedures
- Blood pressure drugs
- Diuretics (water retention relievers)
- Oral contraceptives
- Cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins)
- Diarrhea (causing anal irritation)
- Muscle fatigue
- Nerve damage, as from cancer treatments
Feb. 02, 2016
Causes shown here are commonly associated with this symptom. Work with your doctor or other health care professional for an accurate diagnosis.
- Winkelman JW. Nocturnal leg cramps. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 28, 2015.
- Monderer RS, et al. Nocturnal leg cramps. Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports. 2010;10:53.
- Allen RE, et al. Nocturnal leg cramps. American Family Physician. 2012;86:350.
- Wilkinson JM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 1, 2015.
- Garrison SR, et al. Nocturnal leg cramps and prescription use that precedes them. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2012;172:120.