The name of these medications comes from an enzyme known as HMG CoA Reductase. This enzyme regulates an early step in the process of making cholesterol in the liver. Statins block this step, leading to a decrease in the LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Statins also increase the HDL cholesterol by about five to 10 percent.
This class of medications is the most widely studied of all cholesterol modifying medications, both in patients with and without cardiovascular disease. Statin use can reduce heart attacks and strokes. Because statins work in the liver, your healthcare provider may routinely monitor liver function studies while you are on these medications.
Side effects are usually mild. Some people may experience:
- Rash or flushing, which is redness or warmth of the face
- Sleep problems
A rare-but-serious side effect is liver damage. Symptoms of liver damage include:
- Yellow skin or eyes
- Dark urine
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
It's possible your blood glucose level may increase when you take a statin, which may lead to developing type 2 diabetes. The risk is small, but talk to your healthcare provider if you have concerns.
Some people develop memory loss or confusion while taking statins. These side effects reverse once you stop taking the medication. Contact your provider if you experience memory loss or confusion.
Skeletal muscle problems have been reported with this class of medications, though they occur rarely. Generally, statins are well-tolerated.
If you have any problems that you feel are related to your medication, please consult your healthcare provider.