Statins: Uses & Side Effects

Statins are drugs that can lower your cholesterol. They work by blocking a substance your body needs to make cholesterol. Statins may also help your body reabsorb cholesterol that has built up in plaques on your artery walls, preventing further blockage in your blood vessels and heart attacks.

Examples of Statins

Several statins are available for use in the United States. They include:

  • atorvastatin (Lipitor)
  • lovastatin (Altoprev)
  • pitavastatin (Livalo)
  • pravastatin (Pravachol)
  • rosuvastatin (Crestor)
  • simvastatin (Zocor)

Uses for Statins

Statins are used to:

  • Lower high cholesterol (also known as hyperlipidemia or dyslipidemia). Statins are most effective at lowering LDL-cholesterol (this is commonly referred to as “bad” cholesterol).
  • Reduce a person’s risk of having a heart attack or stroke or developing angina.
  • Reduce the risk of further heart disease in people with type 2 diabetes or coronary artery disease.

Side effects and cautions

Statins are well-tolerated by most people, but they do have side effects. Some side effects go away as the body adjusts to the medication. But always tell your doctor about any unusual signs or symptoms you might have after starting statin therapy. Your doctor may want to decrease your dose or try a different statin. Never stop taking a statin without talking to your doctor first.

Commonly reported side effects of statins include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Muscle and joint aches

However, several research studies comparing statins versus a placebo (fake pill) have found a very small difference in the number of people reporting muscle aches. About 1 in 20 people (5 percent) have muscle aches when using very high doses of statins.

Rarely, statins can cause more-serious side effects such as:

  • Increased blood sugar or type 2 diabetes. It’s possible that your blood sugar (blood glucose) level may slightly increase when you take a statin, which can lead to type 2 diabetes. This is especially likely if your blood sugar is already high. However, the benefit of taking a statin may potentially outweigh the risk. Studies show that those with diabetes who take statins have much lower risks of heart attacks.
  • Muscle cell damage. Very rarely, high-dose statin use can cause muscle cells to break down (rhabdomyolysis) and release a protein called myoglobin into the bloodstream. This can lead to severe muscle pain and kidney damage.
  • Liver damage. Occasionally, statin use causes an increase in liver enzymes. If the increase is mild, you can continue to take the drug. Low to moderate doses of statins do not appear to severely raise liver enzyme levels. Contact your doctor immediately if you have unusual fatigue or weakness, loss of appetite, pain in your upper abdomen, dark-colored urine, or yellowing of your skin or eyes.
  • Cognitive problems. Some people have reported memory loss and confusion after using statins. However, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has not found any evidence to prove that statins actually cause cognitive problems.

Also, ask your doctor if the statin you use will interact with any other prescription or over-the-counter drugs or supplements you take.


Keyword: Statins.

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.