Side effects of statins

Statins are generally well tolerated and most people will not experience any side effects.

For more specific information on side effects for a particular statin, see Medicines guides.

Muscle effects

Statins can occasionally cause inflammation (swelling) and damage to your muscles. Speak to your doctor if you experience muscle pain, tenderness or weakness that cannot be explained (for example, 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 sometime lead to a rise in CK so tell the 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.

Common side effects

Although side effects can vary between different statins, common side effects (affecting between 1 in 10 people and 1 in 100 people) can include:

  • nosebleeds
  • cold-like symptoms
  • headache 
  • feeling sick
  • problems with the digestive system such as constipation, diarrhoea, indigestion and/or flatulence (passing wind)
  • muscle and joint pain
  • difficulties sleeping (insomnia)

Uncommon side effects

Uncommon side effects of statins (affecting between 1 in 100 people and 1 in 1,000 people) include:

  • being sick
  • loss of appetite
  • nightmares
  • dizziness – if you are affected by dizziness do not drive, use tools or machinery
  • inflammation of the liver (hepatitis) which can cause flu-like symptoms
  • ringing in the ears
  • blurred vision – again, do not drive if your vision is blurred
  • skin problems, such as acne or an itchy red skin rash
  • changes to your normal pattern of urination, such as having to urinate more frequently
  • feeling usually tired or physically weak

Rare side effects

Rare side effects of statins (affecting less than 1 in 1,000 people) include:

  • visual disturbance
  • loss of sensation and pain in the nerve endings of the hands and feet (peripheral neuropathy)
  • bruising more easily
  • yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • memory problems

This is not an exhaustive list and the pattern and frequency of side effects can vary depending on the type of statin you are taking. So you should carefully read the information leaflet that comes with your 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.

While side effects can sometimes be troublesome it is important to also appreciate the very real benefits statins do provide.

Research has found that in high-risk groups for heart disease, for every eight people who take a statin, one of those people would have otherwise had a (possible fatal) heart attack or stroke.

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