What is Atorvastatin?

Amanda Dean

Marketed under the brand name Lipitor®, atorvastatin is a medication used to lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and raise levels of high-density (HDL) lipoprotien cholesterol. This statin-based drug is prescribed by doctors to reduce the chances of heart attack, heart failure, and stroke in patients with other conditions that increase risk of these events. While atorvastatin is considered effective in controlling cholesterol when partnered with a healthy diet, it has serious side effects and is not right for all populations.

Atorvastatin.
Atorvastatin.

This drug is available in a variety of prescription strengths. The higher the dosage of atorvastatin, the more effective it is in combating cholesterol. Doctors usually start at a low-dose prescription and adjust gradually to find the proper dosage. Patients should take this medication daily for the best possible results. This drug is commonly used in patients with type-II diabetes, but excessive weight limits its effectiveness.

Usually, a doctor or nutritionist will recommend foods that are high in HDL, or good cholesterol, and low in LDL, or bad cholesterol, to a person taking atorvastatin. This medication can reach toxic levels when paired with grapefruits or grapefruit juice, so moderation is advised. This drug can cause damage to the liver, so most patients should avoid drinking alcohol when taking this drug.

As with most medications, atorvastatin can have serious side effects. Patients who experience chest pain, hives, difficulty breathing, or abnormal bruising and bleeding should consult with their doctors immediately. Patients are advised to take their medication even when they don't feel well, though flu or jaundice-like symptoms should be brought to the attention of their doctors. This drug may initially cause constipation, diarrhea, joint pains, or headache. These side effects should go away in a reasonable time.

Special populations may suffer complications from this medication. Patients over the age of 65 absorb atorvastatin at higher rates than young people. This medication may still be prescribed to older people, but they will likely be given a lower dose. Patients with seizure disorders, metabolic deficiencies, or serious infections should be carefully monitored when taking this drug. Atorvastatin can interact with other medications, so physicians should thoroughly check their patients' drug regimens prior to beginning this treatment.

This medication has been shown to cause birth defects because the developing fetus needs cholesterol to grow. Women should avoid getting pregnant while taking atorvastatin and talk to their doctors before breastfeeding. Most doctors will not prescribe this medication to children under the age of 10.

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