Diabetes involves various complications. Some patients may experience pain and cramps in legs due to nerve damage. The condition is called diabetic neuropathy. When diabetes damages the nerves of the arms or legs, the condition is called diabetic peripheral neuropathy. It may result from higher blood sugar levels or hyperglycemia for a long time in diabetic patients.
Common symptoms of the condition include pain, numbness, burning or tingling sensation in nerves. Peripheral neuropathy may cause severe foot and leg conditions. It is therefore important to identify the nerve damage early to prevent amputations of the lower leg.
You can prevent and alleviate pain and cramps in the legs caused by diabetic neuropathy. It can further help in preventing the condition from progressing. Here are some options for treating leg pain and leg cramps in diabetic patients.
Medication for Pain management
Untreated and unmanaged diabetic neuropathy may become debilitating. You should keep your blood sugar within the specified range to lower the risk of diabetic neuropathy and other similar diabetes complications.
Even if you develop neuropathy, it is essential to keep blood sugar levels under control. You can treat diabetic neuropathy by managing the pain through medication. Various over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can effectively relieve mild to moderate pain.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two medications namely pregabalin (Lyrica) and duloxetine (Cymbalta) for treating patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Certain opioid medications like tramadol and tapentadol, sprays, and topical remedies can also help alleviate the condition.
Certain nutrient-rich dietary supplements help repair the nerve tissues, ease the pain, and reduce the leg discomfort linked to diabetes. Dietary supplements containing alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), vitamin D, vitamin B-12, and acetyl-L-carnitine can help treat diabetic neuropathy:
ALA is an antioxidant found naturally in broccoli and carrots. You can also get ALA as an oral supplement. ALA can help diabetic patients in alleviating pain and preventing further nerve damage.
Acetyl-L-carnitine helps your body in producing healthy nerve cells. The supplement can interact with blood-thinning medications and may have certain side effects like vomiting. It can effectively reduce pain in patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
Vitamin D decreases swelling and supports healthy nerve functions. Vitamin B-12 supports red blood cells. You can get it from meats and fish. It also promotes healthy nerve function and prevents nerve damage. Common medications for type 2 diabetes such as Metformin may lower the levels of vitamin B-12 in your body. Deficient levels of vitamin B-12 can cause neurological damage and symptoms of diabetic neuropathy.
Diabetic patients are advised to follow a healthy diet for leg pain relief and overall well-being. You can get the majority of the required nutrients from your food. In rare cases, your doctor may prescribe dietary supplements for diabetic leg pain along with medication.
Medications or supplements may reduce pain and inflammation but they take time to show effects. Certain medications like opioids may have harmful effects when taken for long. Other potential treatments to address leg cramps and pain include physical therapy, light therapy, electric nerve stimulation, and acupuncture.
Certain lifestyle changes like frequent short walks, exercise on a stationary bike, soaking legs in warm water, and using a bed cradle while sleeping may help ease out the discomfort and pain in your legs.
In some cases, mild pain and cramps in the legs may indicate peripheral arterial disease (PAD). It is a serious condition wherein the blood vessels in the legs are blocked. PAD makes you more prone to stroke and heart attack.