The moment a leg cramp begins, most people brace themselves, ride out the pain, and then shrug it off as a tired muscle. Few people realize that recurrent leg cramps may be a sign of vein or artery disease. The physicians at Commonwealth Vein Center have extensive experience determining the source of leg cramps and providing treatment that takes care of the vascular problem and eliminates the pain. If you need relief from painful cramps, call the office in Colonial Heights, Richmond, or McLean, Virginia, or book an appointment online today.
Cramps frequently occur during the night when a muscle suddenly, uncontrollably, and forcefully contracts or spasms. In most cases, the cramp occurs in your calf muscles, but it could also affect your foot.
In many cases, cramps develop due to dehydration or overexertion and tired muscles. Some medications and health conditions, such as kidney failure, thyroid disease, and diabetes, are associated with repeated muscle cramps.
However, leg cramps that occur at night, or cramps that appear when you're active, often signal an underlying blood vessel condition.
The vascular conditions that cause leg cramps include:
Venous insufficiency inhibits blood flowing up your leg veins toward your heart. The condition occurs when faulty valves let the blood go back down your leg. Then blood builds up in the vein, which affects circulation and increases venous pressure in your leg.
As a result of the poor circulation, you develop night cramps similar to a charley horse, as well as overall leg pain during the day.
PAD is a type of atherosclerosis that occurs when cholesterol builds up in a leg artery. As the fatty plaque keeps enlarging, it increasingly restricts oxygen-carrying blood.
Instead of causing night cramps, PAD causes cramping when you are active. Your leg muscles typically get enough oxygen while you rest.
But as soon as you move and the muscles need more oxygen to keep up with the increased activity, the lack of oxygen causes cramps. Then when you relax, the pain goes away.
Leg cramps are notorious for causing excruciating pain and disrupting sleep. After the cramp finally relaxes, you can still have muscle soreness for days.
Though restless legs syndrome (RLS) also causes discomfort, the sensations are different from the intense pain of cramps. RLS generally causes the urge to move and muscle twitching along with unusual sensations described as creeping, crawling, aching, itching, and electric.
When a nighttime cramp occurs, you can try to stretch or massage the muscle. Sometimes, flexing and unflexing your foot or applying heat to the muscle helps it relax.
The team at Commonwealth Vein Center talks about your symptoms, completes an exam, and performs diagnostics like an ultrasound and blood tests. If they determine you have PAD or venous insufficiency, they recommend one of several in-office treatments to eliminate the underlying problem.
If you need help with recurrent cramps, call Commonwealth Vein Center or book an appointment online today.