Why does gabapentin cause leg swelling?

By

Author bio

Page last updated: 24/09/2022

In this blog post, we are going to answer the question, “Why does gabapentin cause leg swelling?”. Gabapentin is a gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) analog and is used for a number of conditions. 

However, this medicine can cause a number of side effects including swelling in your legs. We will also discuss why that happens and what could be done if you suffer from gabapentin induced leg swelling. 

Why does gabapentin cause leg swelling?

Yes, gabapentin can cause swelling in your legs and other body parts as well. The reason behind this swelling is gabapentin induced water retention. This excess water or fluid starts accumulating in different parts of your body, especially legs, and causes edema. 

A case study included a 46 year old male whose health started deteriorating. This man had no medication allergies in the past and was suffering from multiple mental health conditions. He also had poorly managed diabetes and hypertension. 

He had hypothyroidism which was considered the reason behind his obesity. He was put on 400mg gabapentin and within a few days, it was observed that the patient had edema in his lower extremities. He could not walk properly and his legs literally doubled in size. 

This side effect was directly related to the use of gabapentin and it kept getting worse until the treatment of this medication was stopped. Another case study included a 48 year old man who suffered from the exact same side effect of gabapentin. 

He had many other side effects including nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and insomnia, but the reason behind discontinuation of the treatment with gabapentin was the swelling or edema in upper and lower extremities. 

Many other case studies have revealed the exact same side effect. However, one case study revealed that diuretics can be used in order to eliminate the excess water from your body. 

However, the safety and efficacy of diuretics with gabapentin is still under study and the appropriate doses are still yet to be decided.

Why does gabapentin cause leg swelling?

Is there anything that you can try if you suffer from gabapentin induced leg swelling?

There are a few tips that can help eliminate excess fluid from your body. These include:

Reduce your salt intake 

Make sure you don’t take too much salt in your diet. Salt and water together regulate the body’s homeostasis. However, when you take too much salt, it causes water retention and may make your gabapentin induced edema much worse. It will not only restrict your movement, but can cause serious complications. 

Add more magnesium in your diet 

Many research studies have indicated that the use of magnesium can help with your fluid retention. However, it should be used carefully with gabapentin. 

You can take the two together, but there has to be a gap of at least 4-6 hours between the administration of these two agents. You can either take gabapentin after 4-6 hours of taking magnesium, or you can take it 2-4 hours before taking magnesium. 

The time gap is quite important because of the possible interaction between magnesium and gabapentin. Several studies have revealed that magnesium can decrease the amount of absorbed gabapentin in your body. This can result in therapeutic failure because gabapentin will not be available in concentration enough to deal with your condition

Eat more vitamin B6 

Vitamin B6 is a water solution vitamin and it is involved in a lot of the body’s physiological functions. It can play a huge role in maintaining the levels of fluids in your body and can help reverse fluid retention. 

Make sure you add vitamin B6 rich foods in your diet. Some natural sources are bananas, tuna, walnuts and chickpeas etc. 

Eat potassium rich foods 

Potassium is also an important mineral and is involved in a number of normal physiological functions in your body. It also helps balance the blood volume and works to remove the excess water when the blood volume rises. 

Make sure you add potassium rich foods to your diet. Some natural sources include bananas, spinach, kale, tomatoes, and avocados etc. 

What are the additional side effects of gabapentin? 

The additional side effects of gabapentin include:

  • Xerostomia or dry mouth 
  • Weight gain 
  • Dizziness 
  • Somnolence
  • Swollen hands and feet
  • Headache
  • Vision problems 
  • Cloudy mind
  • Fatigue
  • Tremors 
  • Confusion
  • Joint pain 
  • Difficulty in remembering things
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Unsteadiness
  • Muscle twitching 
  • Constipation 
  • Back pain
  • Increased appetite 
  • Fever

Gabapentin can cause some serious side effects. These include:

  • Suicidal behavior 
  • Impaired motor coordination 
  • Thrombocytopenia or decreased levels of platelets
  • Water retention
  • Rhabdomyolysis, a condition associated with abnormal breakdown of muscles
  • Convulsions 
  • Swelling or tenderness in different parts of the body.
  • Allergic reaction associated with symptoms like redness of skin, itching, burning sensation, blisters, blue-purple patches, tightness of chest, wheezing, difficulty in breathing, hoarseness etc. 

These side effects can vary from person to person. It is impossible to predict how your body will react once it is exposed to this medication. Some people get away with mild side effects, while others suffer terribly. 

Immediately talk to your healthcare provider if you experience unusual side effects while taking gabapentin. Do not recommend this drug to someone else and use it as long as your doctor has advised. 

Inform your doctor if you’re pregnant or trying to conceive. It is extremely important to ensure safety of your meds during your pregnancy. Some meds can cross placenta and are capable of causing unwanted side effects in the growing fetus. 

Inform your doctor if you’re a breastfeeding mother. Gabapentin may be capable of passing into the breastmilk and may cause side effects in newborns. 

Do not stop gabapentin abruptly. If it’s time for you to stop this med, your doctor will simply recommend a taper schedule for you, which should be followed vigilantly if you wish to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay. 

Make sure you use this medication or any other medication only when your doctor has advised it. Using medications which can affect your brain is not something ideal and should not be encouraged unless it is absolutely necessary to do so. 

Make sure you discuss everything in detail with your healthcare provider and ask if you’re at the best possible dose of gabapentin. Also inform your doctor if you’re taking any other medication. 

Why is gabapentin prescribed by the healthcare professionals?

Gabapentin is a gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) analog. Gabapentin mimics the actions of GABA, which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. GABA works by inhibiting the excessive neuronal firing in the brain. It is used to treat the following health conditions:

Convulsions 

Gabapentin is used for the prevention and treatment of partial seizures. It can also be used in children above 3 years of age and in elderly patients as well. It may not suit some people, but overall it is considered a very good medication in order to relieve some epileptic symptoms. 

Nerve pain associated with shingles

Shingles is associated with terrible nerve pain that can be controlled by gabapentin. It is caused by the chickenpox virus that can stay dormant in you for a long, long time. 

This virus remains inactivated, but becomes active either because of compromised immunity or excess stress. This is indeed a very painful condition and some experts have related this pain to the pain that is caused by an actual heart attack. 

Restless Leg syndrome 

Gabapentin can also be used for the treatment, prevention and management of Restless leg syndrome. It manages the excessive and involuntary movements associated with this condition by controlling the excessive neuronal activity in your brain. 

Anxiety

Gabapentin is also used to treat anxiety because of its inhibitory mechanism of action. It is a GABA analog, as stated earlier, and can mimic the actions of this inhibitory neurotransmitter. 

Anxiety occurs because of the excessive neuronal firing in your brain. Gabapentin controls this excessive neuronal activity and helps to tone down the symptoms of anxiety. 

Conclusion

In this blog post, we have discussed gabapentin induced leg swelling. Gabapentin is a gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) analog and is used for a number of conditions. However, this medicine can cause a number of side effects including swelling in your legs. 

The reason behind this swelling is gabapentin induced water retention. This excess water or fluid starts accumulating in different parts of your body, especially legs, and causes edema. 

We have also discussed some tips that might not be able to eliminate this side effect completely, but it can help prevent it and it can also help relieve some of the discomfort. 

FAQs: why does gabapentin cause leg swelling

Does gabapentin cause you to retain fluid?

Gabapentin may cause fluid retention and induce edema in arms and legs. Experts believe that this side effect can also be the reason for weight gain by increasing your water weight. It can also make the body look bulky. Make sure you inform your healthcare provider about your side effects. 

Does gabapentin increase swelling?

Yes, gabapentin might increase swelling in different parts of the body. However, the drug does not cause the same type of effects in every other individual. Make sure you use this medication or any other medication only when your doctor has advised it. Using medications which can affect your brain is not something ideal and should not be encouraged unless it is absolutely necessary to do so. 

What does gabapentin do to legs?

Gabapentin can cause swelling in your legs and other body parts as well. The reason behind this swelling is gabapentin induced water retention. This excess water or fluid starts accumulating in different parts of your body, especially legs, and causes edema. 

What are the most serious side effects of gabapentin?

Gabapentin can cause some serious side effects. These include:

  • Suicidal behavior 
  • Impaired motor coordination 
  • Thrombocytopenia or decreased levels of platelets
  • Water retention
  • Rhabdomyolysis, a condition associated with abnormal breakdown of muscles
  • Convulsions 
  • Swelling or tenderness in different parts of the body.
  • Allergic reaction associated with symptoms like redness of skin, itching, burning sensation, blisters, blue-purple patches, tightness of chest, wheezing, difficulty in breathing, hoarseness etc. 

What should I avoid while taking gabapentin?

  • Narcotic analgesics: Both narcotic opioid analgesics and gabapentin decrease the amount of excitatory neurotransmitters in your brain. This can slow down your physiological functions including breathing rate. 
  • Alcohol can also act as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. The synergistic effects of alcohol and gabapentin can cause severe depression and suicidal behavior.
  • Certain diabetic agents may react with gabapentin and cause increased water retention, which results in swelling or edema in upper and lower extremities, or any other part of the body.

What does gabapentin do to a person?

Gabapentin is a gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) analog. Gabapentin mimics the actions of GABA, which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. GABA works by inhibiting the excessive neuronal firing in the brain which reduces the frequency of epileptic seizures. 

Gabapentin is also used to reduce the intensity of neuropathic pain by inhibiting nociceptors (pain receptors). This medication is a prescription medication and should be taken only at doses determined by your healthcare professional. 

References