Why should I rethink taking quinine sulfate for my nighttime leg cramps?

Jill A. Grimes, MD
Family Medicine

Unfortunately, the prescription drug quinine sulfate, which has been used off-label for decades as an effective cure for nighttime leg cramps, is once again having continued reports of serious side effects, from bleeding to kidney damage to death.

If you are taking this medication and you notice bleeding gums, easy bruising, or blood in your urine, go immediately to your doctor and he or she will need to check your blood count, with special attention to your platelets (the team members that cause your blood to clot).

So, what are you to do if you swear by this drug? First of all, please discuss it with your doctor. Make sure you have been recently checked for low iron stores (a ferritin level) to be sure that isn't the real cause of your leg pain. Your physician will examine you and possibly check a few blood tests.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.