When the blood cholesterol level goes above the normal level, your doctor may prescribe cholesterol and triglyceride control drugs. You will be asked to take the medicine regularly as per the prescribed doses. Your blood cholesterol level may increase due to lifestyle issues or genetic predisposition. In any case, uncontrolled cholesterol along with uncontrolled triglyceride may cause multiple harms to your body including heart blockage and heart attack. If changing the diet and performing exercises cannot control the cholesterol level, especially low-density lipoprotein or LDL, you have to take the medicine regularly. However, the cholesterol drugs used today across the globe are not free from side effects. In the majority of cases, the side effects are mild and go away within a few weeks. (1) The knowledge of the side effects will keep you alert regarding the physical uneasiness you may feel after taking the medicine. If the problems don’t go away within a few weeks, you may consult your doctor. Before we understand the side effects of the cholesterol drugs, it is important to understand the type of cholesterol drugs as the side-effects vary from one drug to another.
Types of Drugs to Control Cholesterol
Cholesterol is important for cell development and cell replenishment. The human liver forms enough cholesterol that the body requires every day. The problem occurs when there is more cholesterol in the body than required. This happens when we eat food products like meat, rice, and dairy products high in cholesterol and triglycerides. Again, some genes in the body are also responsible for the overproduction of cholesterol. Several classes of drugs are prescribed to control the increasing level of cholesterol in the body. Take a look at the following ones:
- Statins: This is the most common drug used in controlling the unreasonable increase of low-density lipoproteins or LDLs and triglycerides. It can also increase the HDL or good cholesterol level slightly. Atorvastatin, Fluvastatin, Pitavastatin, Lovastatin, and Simvastatin are some of the most common statin drugs prescribed by doctors.
- Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitor: Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitor like Ezetimibe lowers the cholesterol absorption in the blood thereby decreasing the chance of heart blockage. It works to decrease cholesterol and triglycerides levels in the blood.
- Cytrate Lyase Inhibitors: Bempedoic acid or the combination of Bempedoic acid and ezetimibe is a citrate lyase inhibitor that works to decrease the LDL or bad cholesterol level in the blood.
- PCSK9 Inhibitors: Drugs like alirocumab and evolocumab belong to this group of inhibitors. PCSK9 inhibitors are prescribed to those patients having a history of statin intolerance or genetic predisposition of bad cholesterol or LDL and triglycerides.
- Combination of Calcium Channel Blockers and Statin: This combination of drugs like amlodipine and atorvastatin controls both cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Combination of Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitor and Statin: This group of drugs such as the combination of ezetimibe and simvastatin controls both production of cholesterol in the liver as well as absorption of cholesterol in the blood. These drugs decrease the bad cholesterol or LDL and triglycerides levels in the blood.
Common Side-effects of Cholesterol Drugs
The medicines for cholesterol discussed here are not free from side effects. Let’s have a look:
- Side-effects of Statin Drugs: Statins are the most-prescribed cholesterol drugs. These drugs are effective in checking high cholesterol levels or controlling the further increase in the cholesterol level. However, statins are not free from side effects which are mentioned below. (1)
- Muscle Pain and Muscle Damage: One of the most common side-effects of statin drugs is muscle pain. Right after starting the medicine for the first time, you may feel tiredness or weak. You may feel exhausted after 1-2 hours of physical labor whereas you used to perform the same work several hours before taking the medicine. (1, 2) However, there is a minimum chance of developing serious life-threatening muscle damage like Rhabdomyolysis.
- Liver Damage: Sometimes, statins may cause increased secretion of liver enzymes leading to liver inflammation. You may feel uneasiness in the right upper side of the abdomen that may be an indication of liver inflammation, especially if that uneasiness was not in your medical history. The liver function test may reveal whether the enzymes are over secreting or it is due to some other reason. (1)
- Neurological Effects as a Common Side-effect of Cholesterol Drug: Some patients complain of confusion and memory loss after taking statin drugs that reverse when they stop taking those drugs. However, in most cases, the problem disappears within a few days. If this problem occurs consult your doctor before stopping the medicine. (1)
- Increased Blood Sugar Levels: If you are prediabetic, there remains a chance of increased blood sugar level after you start taking a statin drug. On the other hand, statins are found to be effective in decreasing the risk of a heart attack in diabetes. So, don’t stop the medicines observing a slight increase in the blood sugar level. If it occurs, consult your doctor first. (2)
- Common Side-Effects of Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitor Drug: This group of cholesterol control drugs may cause stomach pain, muscle pain, fatigue and diarrhea. Doctors generally advise stopping the medicine during pregnancy or for a few weeks after surgery. (2, 4)
- Common Side Effects of Cytrate Lyase Inhibitors Drug: The side effects of this medicine include muscle pain, muscle spasm, acute gout, and joint pain. (3)
- PCSK9 Inhibitor Drug Side-effect: The side effects of this medicine include itching, skin rashes, swelling, and fatigue. (5)
- Side-effect of Combination of Calcium Channel Blockers and Statin: This medicine, a combination of two different drugs, may have different side effects like muscle pain, palpitation, facial flushing, neck flushing, constipation, and increased blood sugar levels. (2)
- Combination of Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitor and Statin Drug Side-effect: The side effects of this medicine include stomach pain, muscle pain, muscle cramps, constipation, bloating, and fatigue. (2)
Side-effects may vary from individual to individual. In most cases, side effects are mild and disappear after a few weeks. In the case of statin, the most-prescribed cholesterol drug, muscle pain is mostly noticed among different side effects of the drug. Other medicines of cholesterol may bring multiple side-effects with mild symptoms. Your doctor will advise accordingly to manage the side effects.
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