Common Side Effects of Cholesterol Medication

Many people take cholesterol medication to reduce cholesterol in their bloodstream. Cholesterol is produced naturally, and also comes from eating animal fats. Excessive amounts in the blood can lead to hardening of the arteries and heart disease.

There are different types of cholesterol in the body, including low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, and high-density lipoprotein, or HDL. LDL increases the risk of heart disease, and HDL protects the heart from heart disease. So it is important to lower the amount of LDL in the body, and raise the amount of HDL.

The most common cholesterol medications are statins. Statins work by blocking an enzyme that produces cholesterol in the liver. When this happens, other enzymes start to produce LDL, or the “bad” cholesterol in the liver. This LDL remains in the liver and is digested there before it ever gets to the bloodstream.

Some common statins are Crestor, Lipitor, Zocor, and Pravachol. They all decrease LDL and increase HDL. They also decrease triglycerides, which are fats in the blood that can cause heart disease.

Dangerous Side Effects

Statins can have side effects. The most common ones are headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation, although many people do not experience any side effects at all.

Some drug side effects can be serious. Statins can create high levels of a muscle enzyme that causes muscle inflammation and weakness. This risk further increases when people take a fibrate, another cholesterol-lowering medication, along with a statin. Sometimes, this condition is difficult to treat and resolve.

People can also get an even more serious condition called rhabdomyolysis. This is a muscle inflammation that can lead to permanent muscle damage. Furthermore, the muscles that are breaking down send proteins to the kidneys, and the kidneys can fail while attempting to get rid of them. This can result in death. Fortunately, rhabdomyolysis is rare; it occurs in only one out of every 10,000 people who take statins.

Statins have been known to cause memory loss and mental confusion and have been linked to type 2 diabetes. A recent study also linked them to cataracts. It is important to check with your pharmacist about drug interactions with statins. It is also necessary to avoid any grapefruit product when taking a statin. The grapefruit can keep the statin from metabolizing, and lead to muscle deterioration.

Doctors agree that taking statins can help improve overall health. Studies have shown that the benefits of statins outweigh the risks for certain conditions. As with any medication, however, the risks and benefits should be carefully considered.

Sources:
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cholesterol-medications/HB00042
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/8274.php
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hbc/
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/20/us-statin-cataract-idUSBRE98J0Z020130920
http://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/side-effects-of-statin-drugs
http://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/tc/high-triglycerides-overview