When Should I See a Doctor for Leg Cramps

Nearly everyone has experienced a muscle cramp at one time or another, and the majority of the time, they’re nothing to worry about. However, the staff at North Atlanta Vascular Clinic & Vein Center have treated patients who had leg cramps that were symptomatic of an underlying condition. 

Theories about leg cramps

Experts aren’t entirely sure why most leg cramps occur, but there are lots of theories, including:

Other theories lack scientific backing, such as exercising in extreme heat and electrolyte imbalances. 

In some instances, leg cramps are associated with another condition. For example, if you have hypothyroidism, you may have more muscle cramps than someone who doesn’t have hypothyroidism. Other underlying conditions include: 

Vascular disease and leg cramps

Leg cramps are sometimes a symptom of certain vascular diseases. Peripheral artery disease (PAD) causes cramps in your calves, particularly when you’re walking. When leg cramps occur because of PAD, it’s called claudication.

PAD is a condition that’s caused by plaque building up in the lining of the blood vessels in your legs and feet. It may also occur in your arms and hands, but that’s less common. 

The plaque buildup makes your blood vessels narrower and stiffer than they should be. It makes it harder for your blood to flow to your extremities, and that’s the cause of your muscle cramps when you walk. Your calf muscles need more blood when they’re working harder, but the blood flow is restricted due to the plaque, and cramping is the result. 

In more advanced cases of PAD, you may wake up in the night with muscle cramps. The cause is the same, but if it happens when you’re not using your muscles, it indicates more extensive damage to your blood vessels. 

When to see a doctor

If you notice cramps in your legs every time you walk or do something strenuous involving your legs, you should see a vascular specialist. If you wake during the night regularly because of muscle cramps in your calves, you may have PAD. 

Another thing to watch for is self-limiting your activities because of leg cramps. If your leg cramps are interfering with your normal activities, it’s time to book an appointment. 

PAD and other vascular diseases can be safely and effectively treated. An evaluation by a skilled professional and diagnostic tests can lead to less pain, more movement, and better overall health. 

There are four locations of North Atlanta Vascular Clinic & Vein Center, and it’s easy to schedule an appointment at the one most convenient for you. Use our handy online booking tool, or call the location that works best for you. You can also send us a message here on our website. We’ll be happy to help. 

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