Side effects of statins 

Like all medications, statins can cause side effects. However, most people tolerate them well and don't experience any problems.

You should discuss the benefits and risks of taking statins with your doctor before you start taking the medication.

If you find certain side effects particularly troublesome, you should talk to the doctor in charge of your care. Your dose may need to be adjusted or you may need a different type of statin.

Some of the main side effects of statins are described below; however, this is not an exhaustive list and some of these will not necessarily apply to the specific statin you are taking. For information on the side effects of a particular statin, check the information leaflet that comes with your medication or search for your medication in our medicines A-Z

Common side effects

Although side effects can vary between different statins, common side effects (which affect up to 1 in 10 people) include:

However, it's not clear whether most of the common problems people experience when taking statins are actually caused by the medication itself. A study has suggested that many side effects are similar, no matter if a statin or placebo (dummy medication) is taken. For more information, see the article "Statins side effects are minimal, study argues".

Uncommon side effects

Uncommon side effects of statins (which may affect up to 1 in 100 people) include:

  • being sick
  • loss of appetite or weight gain
  • difficulty sleeping (insomnia) or having nightmares
  • dizziness – if you experience this, do not drive or use tools and machinery
  • loss of sensation or tingling in the nerve endings of the hands and feet (peripheral neuropathy)
  • memory problems
  • blurred vision – if you experience this, do not drive or use tools and machinery
  • ringing in the ears
  • inflammation of the liver (hepatitis), which can cause flu-like symptoms
  • inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), which can cause stomach pain
  • skin problems, such as acne or an itchy red rash
  • feeling unusually tired or physically weak

Rare side effects

Rare side effects of statins (which may affect up to 1 in 1,000 people) include:

  • visual disturbances
  • bleeding or bruising easily
  • yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)

Muscle effects

Statins can occasionally cause muscle inflammation (swelling) and damage. Speak to your doctor if you experience muscle pain, tenderness or weakness that cannot be explained (for example, pain that is not due to physical work).

Your doctor will carry out a blood test to measure a substance in your blood called creatine kinase (CK), which is released into the blood when your muscles are inflamed or damaged.

If the level of CK in your blood is more than five times the normal level, your doctor may advise you to stop taking the statin. Regular exercise can sometimes lead to a rise in CK, so tell your doctor if you have been exercising a lot.

Once your CK level has returned to normal, your doctor may suggest you start taking the statin again, but at a lower dose.

Reporting side effects

The Yellow Card Scheme allows you to report suspected side effects from any type of medicine you are taking. It is run by a medicines safety watchdog called the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

See the Yellow Card Scheme website for more information.

Page last reviewed: 25/03/2014

Next review due: 25/03/2016