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What are the Different Atorvastatin Side Effects?

By Caitlin Shih
Updated May 17, 2024
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The vast majority of atorvastatin side effects tend to be mild, if there are any. Headaches tend to be the most common, with other mild side effects involving diarrhea, upset stomach, fatigue and muscle pain, among others. The more serious atorvastatin side effects involve severe muscle and liver disease, but these cases are extremely rare. There have also been reports of atorvastatin leading to some memory loss and dementia, but these generally are reported to be largely anecdotal and contradictory with established medical evidence.

Atorvastatin is generally reported to be well-received, and the most side effects are minor. Gastrointestinal side effects tend to be the most common, and include constipation, diarrhea, upset stomach, gas, heartburn and urinary tract infection. Patients should contact their physician if they experience nausea or vomiting or pass abnormally dark-colored or brownish urine. Headache, fatigue, insomnia, dizziness and rash also have been reported, as well as peripheral edema, which is a swelling of the lower limbs usually because of fluid retention.

Minor musculoskeletal and nasal-related side effects also have been reported in a small number of patients. These include muscle pain, joint pain, back pain and arthritis. Atorvastatin side effects concerning the nasal passages include sinusitis, bronchitis, pharyngitis and stuffy nose. Additionally, infections and flu-like symptoms have been present in a small percentage of patients. Allergic reactions to atorvastatin, which might include inflammation of the lips, tongue, face, throat or difficulty breathing, should be communicated to a doctor as soon as possible.

Although rare, atorvastatin side effects can include adverse liver and muscle disease. Patients who are taking other medications along with atorvastatin tend to be the most at risk. In general, atorvastatin and medications like it can yield abnormal liver tests. These might return to normal on their own, but if the abnormality is three times the normal limit, the medication generally is discontinued. Regular liver tests are recommended for all patients on atorvastatin.

Serious cases of muscular disease are caused by inflammation of the muscular tissue, which can lead to the breakdown of muscle cells known as rhabdomylosis. Untreated, this can lead to kidney failure and might even be fatal. Patients who are taking atorvastatin should notify their physician immediately if they start to exhibit unexplained muscle weakness, tenderness or fever.

Anecdotal testimonies of memory loss have been presented as being associated with atorvastatin. This has been reported in a minuscule percentage of consumers and is more often reported in women. There is already, however, a well-established medical association between high cholesterol and dementia. Clinical trials generally do not support an association between atorvastatin and memory loss.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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