Statins - Side effects 

  • Overview

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 creatinine 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.

Page last reviewed: 25/03/2014

Next review due: 25/03/2016

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Comments

The 17 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

millicent1946 said on 09 April 2014

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in July last year.
My cholesterol level was 7.2 which is quite high .
The targets for diabetes are HDL more than 1.5 and for LDL less than 2.2
But my levels are LDL 1.79 Nd HDL 4.5
My G P recommended that I take statins which I understand works on LDL
I cannot get a satisfactory explanation of why medication is considered necessary and until I do I will take the risk.
Pills often cause more problems than they solve and in my view if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

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aj60 said on 07 April 2014

Was told I have high cholesterol 8.2 also that it's genetic not dietry I have a reasonably good diet don't eat much sweet stuff, I like fruit and veg though can't eat some because they upset my stomach eg , cabbage ,sprouts ,leeks. lettuce ,cucumber.Use olive oil when i cook, and grill or oven bake most meal's eat lot's of rice and pasta and meat is usually chicken .Use mincemeat for spag bol and chilli but always the leanest i can get.
More to the point I was put on Avorstatin 20 mg I can't believe how ill these tablet's made me feel headaches daily, and what was happening to my joint's and muscle was unbelievable I couldn't do anything without pain was spending most days with a hot water bottle and painkillers couldn't even open a bottle of milk , terrible cramp's in my leg's and feet day and night hence sleepless night's. after a particulary bad day I decided to stop taking them 3-4 day's later I was amazed how much better i felt no more cramp's or headaches more joint's and muscles didn't hurt and I had energy again I don't know if there's anything I can do to lower my cholesterol but I will never ever take a drug that makes me feel like that .It's ironic because I didn't feel ill when I went to the doctor's infact I rarely go I only went because I was asked to go for a check up as I'm nearly 60. If anyone has any advice for me I would love to hear it or if you have experenced sme symptons as me

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cassie45 said on 10 March 2014

I took statins...different kinds for years until 3 years ago when the pain and weakness in my muscles got so bad i could hardly walk...and still my gp insisted there was nothing wrong. I stopped taking them...and felt a lot better
a couple of years before i stopped them...I was diagnosed type 2 diabetic...I didn't need medication...just diet and exercise...I cut out all added sugar and lost weight ...but exercise was a no no ...because of muscle weakness and pain....Then it was discovered that statins cause your blood sugar to rise...and can cause type 2 diabetes...since stopping the statins...my blood sugar readings are normal....I was not given co q 10 while i was taking statins....although the statins deplete your body of coq 10...so now i have started taking it in the ubiquinol form hoping it might undo any damaged caused by statins

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derejam said on 06 March 2014

I read a couple of years or so ago that everyone over 50 should be on statins. My Cholesterol has always been borderline so I asked my doctor to prescribe them. He put me on Simvastatin to be taken every second day. Within a couple of months I was having muscle cramps and occasional palpitations. I therefore changed to Pravastatin which has suited me fine.
Having read many of the prior comments I am wondering whether to continue. I hate taking pills of any sort . I am not overweight, take reasonable exercise, and try to eat and drink sensibly.
Something which many statin takers do not realise is that they will have quite severe reactions if they eat grapefruit. There is a warning with the pills but it is amazing the number of people who miss this

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graj0 said on 26 February 2014

I first took Atorvastatin in '97, then switched to Simvastatin because, as my GP put it, I can prescribe 3 people Simvastatin for your one lot of Atorvastatin. That's when my problems became very noticeable. Muscle pain, sleepless nights and 'foggy' head. I'd been following a low fat diet for years and had also been denying myself eggs, prawns, etc to keep my cholesterol down, as per medical advice. I wouldn't have started looking into statins had it not been for the fact that my GP tried to tell me that my muscle pain was because of my weight. Then the following year it was because I exercised too much. That's when I found the Merck Pharmaceutical patent dated 1990 suggesting they add CoQ10 to the statin to "prevent the impending muscle pain". So they knew about the muscle pain as far back as 1990. The cholesterol advice wasn't that good either, the less you eat, the more the body produces, the more cholesterol you eat, the less the body produces. Several pieces of research, University of Surrey for example to show that. The major change came when I stopped eating bread/pasta/rice/potatoes and my cholesterol dropped from 5.5 to 3.5, increased exercise also had an effect. I stopped taking statins 4 months ago and my muscle pain went very quickly, now I walk a lot more because it doesn't hurt and I don't take so much cocodomol either. I can now sleep until 06:30 every morning, it's wonderful. The foggy head hasn't gone, trouble is that might very well be old age now. If you are trying to lower cholesterol by diet, forget going without eggs or prawns, cut carbs.

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lostcause said on 12 February 2014

Hi after a week on statins I was worried as my stools were very yellow and very loose , tests were carried out and it was found that I had pancreatitis and was prescribed Creon an enzyme produced from pigs. In all your symptoms this is not noted as a [possible reaction to having taken statins. Is my case an isolated one perhaps.? Its always puzzled me.

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Gornalannie said on 10 February 2014

My husband was automatically prescribed statins following a heart attack in 2007, despite having very low cholestorol, low blood pressure and a heart beat of an athlete at rest and no other possible indications of the attack. When I questioned why he was being prescribed these, I was informed that it was BMA procedure to do so.
Within three months, his leg muscles had been "stripped," rendering him unable to walk, this required a surgical procedure and all of his teeth became loose which he then had to have removed. These tablets are being prescribed as a "one size fits all" which they obviously don't. They were removed and a substitute prescribed which suits him. Please question and do your own research as I have uncovered other horrific stories from talking to people who were also prescribed them. I have today been told by my Dr that I will have to take them but have very politely told her to shove them! I will take matters into my own hands and will try to lower it by changing my diet and lifestyle. I have given myself six months to do this.

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Christine007 said on 25 January 2014

My husband has been taking statins for many years to lower his cholestorol. He suffers from what he describes as his muscles crawling in his arms & legs. This stops him resting and occurs at nigt time. Also stops him sleeping. I wonder if he should reduce the dosage.

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cathinscotland said on 02 August 2013

My neighbour takes a statin. He's currently undergoing tests for Alzheimer's, as he is becoming very forgetful and confused. When he was diagnosed last year, with prostate cancer, I changed his diet to include oily fish, no pies/sausage rolls, more veg. His cancer is responding extremely well to his treatment and new diet. However, as his diet is now more healthy, I'm wondering, if him taking the statin, could be the cause of his memory problems? That last year or so, is when he started to have difficulties, which would coincide with his change in diet. He is undergoing more blood tests and he's to get a brain scan. I think we should mention this to his doctor? I don't know what to suggest to either his doctor, or him. He wanted to just stop the statin when I mentioned it to him, but I've told him not to, not unless the doctor says so.

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gahauss said on 03 June 2013

I have been taking Lipitor and prior to that, Zocor for more than fifteen years, since a TIA in 1997. My age is 85.

Over the past six months, I have noticed a loss in sensation in my right hand fingers and now commencing in the left hand. Toes are also commencing to feel the same but both pain and the loss of sensation in hands and feet seem to be increasing.

I also had an unexplained left wrist dislocation, which is persisting and fails to respond to physiotherapy.

I recently had a Carpal Tunnel release in the RH to treat the worst of the fingers sensation loss but this has done nothing for the hand. The operation was done for the LH five years ago.

I have stopped taking the Lipitor(atorvastatin) and intend to ask my GP about COQ10 in lieu.

GAH Australia

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lesleyW said on 21 May 2013

we find taking COQ10 mitigates the muscle pains/weakness that statins sometimes provoke. I read recently that in the original patent it was recommended statins be taken with COQ10 because they do actually reduce this within the body (and getting enough from diet is more difficult with age anyway) and in Canada the government has a warning issued with the statin reminding physicians to consider prescribing COQ10 (to get it naturally, you need to eat heart - I like mine flash-fried like good steak, my husband insists on the capsules!
Good luck.

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timmalvern said on 02 May 2013

I have read all the medical information about Cholesterol and the fact that even if you drop your Cholesterol down to under 4 your liver will compensate and bring it back to the normal level and if too high again your liver will bring it back to normal levels. Every cell in the body makes Cholesterol and without you will die. Therefore using drugs is dangerous and life threatening. My doctor checked my level years ago and it was 8, so I asked what use was taking Statins? He told me that if I lived 200 years I could expect Statins would give me an extra 3 months. I'm still alive, and fit and healthy got no pains in leg muscles ( don't forget if Statins effect muscles, your heart is also a muscle, therefore your heart can also be damaged by these drugs) I eat butter,cream, full fat milk,meat, fat, nuts,veg,fruit, but never any grains. All my relatives lived into their 90's and non took Statins, therefore I thing they cause more harm than good. Soon the Statin bomb will explode and then the usual $26 Billion a year profit made by the Pharmaceutical companies will be used in compensations.

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User729670 said on 28 November 2012

Are there studies that indicate that the Liver responds to statins by trying to create more LDL? For example, if someone were to suddenly stop taking a statin, would there be a spike in LDL in the short term after to statin was no longer being taken?

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zimmerframe said on 04 February 2011

Well, coming up for a year on Statins now.

I still take one 40mg tablet at night. I've had two blood tests last year that show my cholesterol level at a consistant 3.6. I have none of the side effects now that I reported above. My GP suggests yearly blodd check from now on

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zimmerframe said on 11 August 2010

4 months on and the muscle pains have gone. However, constipation reared its head and continues to be an intermitant problem...

Other than that, no other side effects have been felt.

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zimmerframe said on 22 April 2010

I have recently been diagnosed with CHD. 30% blackage to one heart artery. This followed a chest pain incident a couple of months ago. No surgery is required but I have been put on 40mg simvastatin to reduce my cholesterol level,(was 5.6, am told should be under 4). I am also taking low dose aspirin, (70mg) for a couple of months too.

2 weeks later and I am getting intermitant muscle pain in my left shoulder. I have seen my GP who said I should persevere with the statins. He will check again in 2 months time.

I dont smoke, (never have) dont drink, eat well and have played badminton twice a week for more than 15 years. What else can I do?

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Pendob said on 02 April 2010

I was diagnosed with diabetes 2 (at age 60) early March, Doc prescribed metformin gradually increasing to 2 tablets twice daily, He also subscribed simvastatin (because he said cholesterol was too high for diabetic) on at night 40mg tablet, as soon as I started taking I experienced pain in upper left arm so stopped for a day then pain not so bad also pain in elbow. I'm going back to docs I consider the side affects more dangerous than what they are supposed to prevent. I don't smoke or drink and walk quite a lot, so do I need statins, surely there's a more natural way.

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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.