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8 Types of Drugs That Can Cause Leg Cramps

Pain may be a sign of an underlying medical problem

AARP Driver Safety

5. Beta2-agonists

Why they're prescribed: Beta2-agonists are bronchodilators — drugs that relax the smooth muscles surrounding the bronchial tubes, making it easier to breathe. They're frequently prescribed to relieve the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Beta2-agonists are typically given through an inhaler, which delivers a measured dose of the drug as a fine mist. They're also sometimes given in pill or injectable form to patients who can't use inhalers.

Beta2-agonists include albuterol (Proventil, Ventolin), formoterol (Symbicort), levalbuterol (Xopenex), metaproterenol, pirbuterol (Maxair), salmeterol (Advair) and terbutaline.

How they can cause leg cramps: Researchers don't yet know why beta2-agonists can cause leg cramps.

Alternatives: If you're using a beta2-agonist for a condition other than pulmonary disease, talk with your doctor or other health care provider about possibly switching medications or types of treatment. Systematic reviews of studies have found that beta2-agonists do not provide significant relief to non-COPD patients with acute bronchitis or cough.

If you do have pulmonary disease, I'd suggest talking with your physician about switching to tiotropium bromide (Spiriva), a different type of long-acting bronchodilator, used once a day. Spireva has been shown to outperform beta2-agonists at improving the overall health status of people with COPD.

6. ACE inhibitors

Why they're prescribed: Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors are used to treat high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and other conditions. These drugs help relax blood vessels by preventing the body from producing angiotensin II, a hormone that causes blood vessels to narrow and, in turn, blood pressure to rise.

Examples of ACE inhibitors include: benazepril (Lotensin), captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), fosinopril, lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril), moexipril (Univasc), perindopril (Aceon), quinapril (Accupril), ramipril (Altace) and trandolapril (Mavik).

How they can cause leg cramps: ACE inhibitors can cause potassium to build up in the body (another type of electrolyte imbalance), which can lead to leg cramps and achy joints, bones and muscles.

Alternatives: If you're taking an ACE inhibitor for a cardiovascular problem, talk with your doctor about possibly switching to a benzothiazepine calcium channel blocker, another form of blood-pressure medication that is often better tolerated by older adults. This is especially important for African Americans and Asian Americans, who because of differences in their renin-angiotensin systems, have much higher incidences of adverse effects.

If your condition is accompanied by fluid retention, your doctor may consider adding a low dose of a long-acting loop diuretic such as torsemide.

Next page: Angiotensin II-receptor blockers (ARBs). »

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