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 (PAD)
- Spinal stenosis
- Acute kidney failure
- Addison's disease (adrenal insufficiency)
- Chronic kidney disease
- Cirrhosis (scarring of the liver)
- Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
- Type 1 diabetes
- Type 2 diabetes
Medications and procedures
- Blood pressure drugs
- Cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins)
- Diuretics (water retention relievers)
- Oral contraceptives
- Muscle fatigue
- Nerve damage, as from cancer treatments
- Osteoarthritis (disease causing the breakdown of joints)
- Parkinson's disease
Causes shown here are commonly associated with this symptom. Work with your doctor or other health care professional for an accurate diagnosis.
Dec. 09, 2020
From Mayo Clinic to your inbox
Sign up for free, and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expertise on managing health.
ErrorEmail field is required
ErrorInclude a valid email address
To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which
information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with
other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could
include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected
health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health
information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of
privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on
the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.
Thank you for subscribing!
You'll soon start receiving the latest Mayo Clinic health information you requested in your inbox.
Sorry something went wrong with your subscription
Please, try again in a couple of minutes
- 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.