Diabetes and Muscle Cramps: Cause, Prevention, Relief
Muscle cramps, or spasms, are involuntary contractions (shortening) of our skeletal muscles.
Cramps can occur at any time but often wake people during the night. They can affect any muscle but usually show up in the calves, thighs, feet and arms.
Since having either high or low blood sugar contributes to spasms, many people with diabetes report having from mild to severely painful muscle cramping.
Causes of Cramping
Glucose and Electrolytes
The proper contraction and relaxation of our muscles requires a fuel source such as glucose, and a balanced exchange of electrolytes (e.g., sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium) flowing through the cell membranes.
When blood sugar is low, the muscles can become starved for fuel. When blood sugar runs high our body excretes excess glucose via urine, causing dehydration, and a depletion of electrolytes.
These types of imbalances cause cramping in athletes engaged in extended strenuous exercise, those who are active without proper conditioning or hydration, and in active or sedentary people with fluctuating blood glucose.
Nerves and Circulation
Complications from diabetes can trigger muscle cramps as well. Since poor circulation and nerve damage may instigate spasms, people with peripheral vascular disease or peripheral neuropathy may be prone to cramps. In rare cases, muscle cramps are a symptom of kidney problems.
Medications and substances that contribute to the incidence of muscle cramps include insulin, lipid (cholesterol) lowering drugs, antihypertensives, beta-agonists, antipsychotics, oral contraceptives, and alcohol.
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