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What Are the Most Common Cholestyramine Side Effects?

By A. Gamm
Updated May 17, 2024
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Cholestyramine is primarily prescribed to assist in lowering cholesterol, though other uses of include aiding in the reduction of itchiness in people with certain liver diseases. As with most medications, side effects are a risk. The most common of the Cholestyramine side effects is constipation. Other side effects may include gas, nausea, abdominal pain and bloody bowel movements. Rare but serious side effects include allergic reaction, muscle or joint pain, and unexplained bleeding or bruising.

According to some reports, although constipation is listed as one of the most common of the Cholestyramine side effects, there is a low risk for this side effect occurring. In most cases constipation may occur with a higher Cholestyramine dose, and even then it is primarily in elderly patients over 60 years in age. Typically, constipation is successfully dealt with using standard treatments, and in more extreme cases lowered doses of the medication. In rare cases, a patient may need to stop taking the medication.

Other Cholestyramine side effects are considered rare, but still entirely possible. Less severe side effects include heartburn, decreased appetite, indigestion, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, flatulence and abdominal pains. A potentially more serious side effect is bloody bowel movements; however, this may be due to constipation if these side effects are both present. Black or tarry stools may also occur. Although it may not seem entirely necessary to seek medical advice for these symptoms, it is still recommended.

Serious Cholestyramine side effects are usually very uncommon and may require immediate medical attention. This includes muscle and joint pain, dizziness, changes in weight, unexplained bleeding or bruising, and allergic reaction. Signs of an allergic reaction include itchiness, swelling, rash and trouble breathing. It is also possible for an increase in enzyme stimulation in the liver, though this is typically determined after testing.

Included in Cholestyramine side effects are drug interactions. It is possible for this drug to delay or even reduce the body’s ability to absorb concomitant drugs. Other drugs and supplements also delayed or reduced include estrogen thyroid medication, penicillin and progestins. Cholestyramine may also interfere with phosphate absorption.

It is commonly found that Cholestyramine may interfere with the body’s ability to absorb and properly digest fats. This means certain vitamins, such as vitamins K, E, D and A, may not be properly absorbed while on this medication. As such, it is highly recommended to take a vitamin supplement one to two hours before or after taking Cholestyramine.

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