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Arch Neurol. 1989 Sep;46(9):981-5.

Phenytoin-induced improvement in muscle cramping and insulin action in three patients with the syndrome of insulin resistance, acanthosis nigricans, and acral hypertrophy.

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  • 1Charles A. Dana Research Institute, Beth Israel Hospital, Boston, MA 02215.


Phenytoin sodium has been used to treat muscle cramps of diverse causes, and is known to increase insulin sensitivity during long-term use. We have previously described a syndrome of insulin resistance, acanthosis nigricans, and acral hypertrophy with continual muscle cramping. The effect of 300 mg/d of phenytoin (Dilantin) on muscle cramping and carbohydrate economy was studied in three affected patients and four control subjects. Oral glucose tolerance tests, euglycemic insulin infusion studies, and monocyte insulin binding tests were conducted before and after phenytoin administration. All three patients had notable improvement in muscle cramps. In response to phenytoin, metabolic improvements were variable, with improvement characteristically better in patients with less severe baseline metabolic abnormalities. Patient 1, with the mildest degree of glucose intolerance, had decreased fasting insulin and blood glucose levels, improved glucose tolerance, and insulin-mediated glucose disposal, associated with an increase in monocyte insulin receptors. Patient 2 had reduced fasting plasma glucose and insulin levels and improved oral glucose tolerance, suggesting a beneficial effect on carbohydrate metabolism. Patient 3, with the most severely impaired carbohydrate economy, showed no metabolic improvement despite marked lessening of muscle pain. These clinical characteristics were unaffected in control subjects. We conclude that phenytoin is of value in the therapy of muscle cramps and glucose intolerance in patients with this syndrome.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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