Statins side effects: The sign in ears and eyes ‘which may affect up to 1 in 100 people’
STATINS are a group of medicines that are used to lower the cholesterol in your blood, helping to prevent heart disease and stroke. Like all medications, statins have potential side effects, some of which may occur around your ears and eyes.
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Statins lower the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood, which is often referred to as “bad cholesterol”, and statins reduce the production of it inside the liver. It is thought that more than seven million Britons take these drugs. You may need to take statins if you’ve had a heart attack or stroke, in order to reduce your risk of another cardiac event.
You usually have to continue taking statins for life because if you stop taking them, your cholesterol will return to a high level within a few weeks.
Most statins are taken at night, as this is when most of your cholesterol is produced, according to the British Heart Foundation (BHF).
The BHF says: “It’s important to take your medication regularly as prescribed. Most statins are taken at night, as this is when most of your cholesterol is produced. Check with your doctor or pharmacist when you should be taking your statin.”
The NHS says that there are five types of statin available on prescription in the UK. They include atorvastatin, fluvastatin pravastatin, rosuvastatin and simvastatin.
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You usually have to continue taking statins for life. (Image: GETTY)
The BHF says that around 7 to 8 million adults in the UK take them, and over 71 million prescription items were dispensed in 2018.
It notes that statins became available in the late 1980s to reduce the risk of further heart attacks in people who’d already had one.
The NHS says that uncommon side effects of statins which may affect up to 1 in 100 people include ringing in the ears and blurred vision.
Others also experience loss of sensation or tingling in the nerve endings of the hands and feet.
The NHS notes that many people who take statins experience no or very few side effects, though others will experience “some troublesome, but usually minor, side effects, such as diarrhoea, a headache or feeling sick”.
It notes that a review of scientific studies into the effectiveness of statins found around one in every 50 people who take the medicine for five years will avoid a serious event, such as a heart attack or stroke, as a result.
The UK government says: “All effective medicines can cause side effects in some patients and a small proportion of patients taking statins will inevitably experience side effects.
“Although they may be distressing to the individual concerned and limit that individual’s willingness or ability to tolerate statin use, statin-related side effects are generally mild and not medically serious.”
The NHS recommends maintaining cholesterol levels below 5mmol/L. (Image: GETTY)
The NHS recommends maintaining cholesterol levels below 5mmol/L.
In the UK, however, three out of five adults have a total cholesterol of 5mmol/L or above, and the average cholesterol level is about 5.7mmol/L, which can be a risk factor in heart disease.
Heart UK says: “It is sometimes difficult to know if such muscle aches and pains are associated with taking a statin or with general day-to-day life, and usually stopping the statin for a few days under supervision of your doctor will demonstrate if it is actually the statin.”
It adds: “There are 5 different statins prescribed in the UK, and if one is not suitable then your doctor should try a different one (or a lower dose of the one you are taking).”
The Yellow Card Scheme allows you to report suspected side effects from any type of medicine . (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)
The Yellow Card Scheme allows you to report suspected side effects from any type of medicine you’re taking.
It’s run by a medicines safety watchdog called the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
The purpose of the scheme is to provide an early warning that the safety of a medicine or a medical device may require further investigation.
Side effects reported on Yellow Cards are evaluated, together with additional sources of information such as clinical trial data.