Tags: cholesterol lowering | statin side effects | statins | risk–benefit | heart diseases

Cholesterol-Lowering Statins Can Have Side Effects, Too

Thursday, 12 Dec 2013 11:36 PM

Statins are cholesterol-lowering drugs that are majorly used to treat heart diseases and their underlying cause. They have also proved beneficial in curbing the recurrence of heart attacks and stroke incidences. But are these drugs completely safe? Can their consumption have ill effects on the patient? What is the risk–benefit ratio, and what are the possibilities of suffering side effects from statins in prescribed dosage? Let us probe these questions now.
 
High cholesterol (high low-density lipoproteins) in the blood results in plaque formation and hampers the pumping action of the heart. When blood clots block arteries narrowed by plaques, heart attacks and strokes occur. The cholesterol-lowering action of statins results from their ability to reduce the production of liver enzymes responsible for producing LDL; they also play a role in dissolving plaques to some extent. Since statins are importantly used in treating heart diseases, their risk–benefit analysis holds even more importance.
 
All the good features of statins in preventing heart diseases come along with certain possible side effects. Though every patient might not experience statin side effects, if you are consuming statins, you must keep a check on other body statistics to avoid the ill effects of these cholesterol-lowering drugs.
 
Statins are well tolerated by a majority, but some might show minor side effects like dizziness, rash, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramping, muscle ache, difficulty in sleeping, flushing of skin, bloating, etc. But others have experienced some more serious side effects.
 
Myositis: Cholesterol in the right amounts helps retain muscle health. When cholesterol levels reduce to lower than normal, muscle injury is experienced, usually as weakness, tenderness, pain, and discomfort in muscles. However, this happens when cholesterol-lowering statins are taken along with another cholesterol-lowering drug like fibrates. The chances of muscle pain or muscle injury are very rare when statins are taken alone.

High CPK levels in the blood: CPK or creatine kinase enzyme is an important precursor enzyme used in the functioning of muscles. Excess of this enzyme causes inflammation and weakness in the affected muscles. While the onset of this rare statin side effect is slow, it can be cured by timely and appropriate treatment.

Rhabdomyolysis: This is again a form of muscle inflammation, which can be extreme. The muscles all over the body get affected and they slowly get damaged as a result of this statin side effect. The progression leads to kidney malfunction, where the kidneys remain insufficient in clearing all the proteins released upon muscle breakdown. Thus, in very rare and unfortunate cases, this heart disease preventing drug might become a cause of death.

Cholesterol-lowering drugs or statins can be effective to get rid of bad cholesterol and prevent heart diseases, but their usage is restricted and varies from case to case. These drugs shall only be consumed when and as prescribed by learned cardiologists, who are intellectually well-equipped to analyze the risk–benefit ratio for each patient separately. Such conscious efforts would avoid the occurrence of severe statin side effects.

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Health-Wire
The use of statins to treat and prevent heart attacks and strokes is being questioned for safety and possible side-effects. Minor to major side effects of statins have been noticed in many patients, and it is advisable to analyze the risk–benefit ratio of these drugs before prolonged consumption.
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Thursday, 12 Dec 2013 11:36 PM
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