Statins are a class of drugs which are used to lower cholesterol by reducing the body's overall production of cholesterol. These drugs are prescribed to people with high cholesterol to decrease their risk of developing serious cardiovascular problems. The side effects of statins can vary slightly, depending on which drug is prescribed and the dosage. It is important to review the side effects of a proposed drug with a doctor before starting to take it, and to report severe side effects to the doctor.
One of the most common side effects of statins is muscle pain and muscle weakness. In rare cases, patients may actually experience wasting of the muscles which can make it difficult for them to perform basic tasks. More commonly, patients simply experience aches and pains in their muscles, and they may lose muscle tone or develop muscle stiffness. Muscle wasting can also lead to kidney failure, although this side effect of statins is mercifully very rare, especially when patients are monitored while they take the drugs.
This class of drugs has also been linked with liver damage, especially in patients with existing liver conditions. Patients may also develop skin rashes and digestive problems as a result of taking statins. Sexual dysfunction is another one of the side effects of statins which can be a concern for some patients. All of these side effects can be complicated by taking multiple drugs, with statins interacting poorly with certain other prescription medications.
One of the serious potential side effects of statins is neurological problems. Some patients develop peripheral neuropathy, in which the sensation in their fingers and toes is diminished or changed. Cognitive changes such as irritability and memory loss have also been linked with statins. These drugs have been fingered as the culprits behind certain degenerative neurological diseases and cancers, although this link has been largely disproved in trials to test the safety of this class of drugs.
Patients are more at risk of serious side effects of statins if they are small-framed, older, or female. Patients with type one or two diabetes and pre-existing liver conditions may also be more prone to serious side effects. When a doctor recommends statins to control cholesterol, patients should make sure to review their history to confirm that they are good candidates for the drugs, and they should discuss the potential for side effects and methods which can be used to diminish the side effects, such as changing statin prescriptions or using a lower dosage.