Type 2 diabetics are far more likely than most other people to suffer nighttime leg cramps. Jolting diabetics wide awake in the middle of the night, sudden spasms of leg pain are one of the most common complications of type 2 diabetes – but it is not always necessary to see a doctor right away. Here is a quick guide about how to decide if immediate medical attention is necessary.
It’s essential to see a doctor right away, even if it’s the middle of the night, if:
- Your pain is unbearable
- Your leg cramps are associated with shortness of breath, or
- You experienced leg cramps after exposure to gasoline, paint fumes, insecticides, or some other identifiable toxins.
It’s a good idea to schedule an office visit with your doctor, waiting up to two weeks, if:
- You are having trouble functioning during the day because leg cramps interrupt your sleep,
- You notice your calf muscles are shrinking, or
- You notice dry skin or patches of brown skin on your lower legs and feet.
Dry, brown skin on your legs and feet, looking something like a blotchy tan, is not a cosmetic problem. It is a sign of poor circulation to your lower legs, that first shows up in your skin. In diabetes, leg circulation is a common problem, and both nighttime leg cramps and dry skin are symptoms.
Home Remedies for Diabetic Leg Cramps
There are also things that it is a good idea to try at home. One is moisturizing the skin of your legs and feet. When diabetic leg circulation problems dry out the skin, literally thousands of tiny cracks and crevices form. These fissures in the skin can become a home for pathogenic staph and strep bacteria that can cause skin infections, and even the Clostridium bacteria that cause gangrene. Keeping your skin moist by using the right moisturizer, and by avoiding long baths and hot showers, can literally save your legs and feet.
Another home remedy for nighttime leg cramps is drinking plenty of fluids. When your blood sugar levels get too high, your kidneys remove excess sugar by increasing urination. This can happen after meals even if your first-thing-in-the-morning fasting blood sugar level is normal. A small glass of water about two hours before your go to bed can help prevent cramps.
The recommendation used to be to have a small glass of juice. There are two problems with this. One is that juice contains sugar. Diabetics need to avoid sugar.
The other is that juice contains potassium. Most diabetics take high blood pressure medications called ACE-inhibitors or ACE-receptor blockers that concentrate potassium in the bloodstream. Too much potassium, caused by a combination of the medication and the juice, can also cause leg cramps.
A home remedy that works for diabetics who snore sounds a little crazy, but it actually works – diabetics often get relief from leg cramps when they use nose strips. Nose strips stop snorts and snores during the night. Every time you snore or your snort, you stop breathing for a few seconds up to a minute. Every time a snore or a snort stops breathing, the heart pumps extra hard and extra fast to circulate the bloodstream’s remaining oxygen to the brain. This also pumps more blood to the kidneys, and increases urination which in turn removes potassium the muscles need to stay at rest.