What are the side effects of cholesterol medication?

When it comes to cholesterol medication, there’s a lot of speculation about potential side effects. Some people assume that these medications will turn you into a walking ball of muscle and make your hairline recede faster than you can say “balding.” Others worry that taking statins will cause their ears to slowly morph into cauliflower florets.

Thankfully, most of these concerns are exaggerated or simply untrue — but there are some legitimate side effects associated with cholesterol medications. Below, we’ll explore what those side effects are and how common they really are.

Types of Cholesterol Medications

Before diving into the potential side effects, it’s worth taking a minute to understand exactly what types of cholesterol medications exist in the first place. The two main categories include:


Statins work by blocking an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase, which is involved in producing cholesterol in the liver. By inhibiting this enzyme, statins can reduce your overall levels of LDL (aka “bad”) cholesterol while also increasing levels HDL (“good”) cholesterol.

Examples: Atorvastatin (Lipitor), Rosuvastatin (Crestor), Simvastatin (Zocor)

PCSK9 inhibitors

PCSK9 inhibitors help lower LDL-cholesterol by preventing its breakdown inside cells so that it stays circulating in your bloodstream for longer periods.

Examples: Alirocumab (Praluent), Evolocumab (Repatha)

Potential Side Effects

Now let’s get down to brass tacks: What kind of risks do these drugs entail? Here’s what you need to know:

Muscle Pain and Weakness

If you’ve been Googling “cholesterol medication,” chances are high that you’ve heard about the infamous statin-related muscle pain. According to some studies, as many as 10% of people taking statins experience muscle symptoms like pain or weakness.

The good news is that these effects don’t usually last long and can be minimized with exercise (yes, even though your muscles hurt) and by generally living a healthy lifestyle. Even if you do experience some degree of discomfort, the benefits of reduced cholesterol levels typically outweigh any temporary musculoskeletal woes.

Cognitive Issues

There’s been a lot of chatter in recent years about whether statin medications might cause cognitive issues like memory loss or confusion. While there may be some risk for certain people – especially the elderly – most research shows that cognition-related side effects are relatively rare among patients taking cholesterol meds.

In fact, one study found that cognitive function actually improved among patients who took atorvastatin compared to those on placebo medication (source).

Increased Risk for Diabetes

In general terms, cholesterol-lowering drugs have been associated with increased glucose concentrations leading to an increase in new-onset diabetes risks(source) . Also this effect was seen more commonly in individuals having high HbA1c values suggesting already present insulin resistance

However it does not mean all diabetic state caused by these drugs should supersede their tremendous benefits- which includes reduction in cardiovascular mortality , morbidity .

Gastrointestinal Upset

Just like coffee sends us up early morning sometimes along comes just medicines right! It’s like you get one thing then lose another…
People using PCSK9 inhibitors might occasionally encounter gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea (source) Although its not well documented consistently across reports but somethings’ always better than nothings’. Good news again: This too is often transient” –


While there are potential side effects associated with various types of cholesterol medications,, chances are low you’ll face anything serious when keeping limit within regular dosage thus reducing probability.
That said, like any medication, it’s important to be aware of potential risks and talk to your doctor if you experience anything unusual while taking cholesterol-lowering drugs. With a bit of luck and good management over time you might just find that these medications can help save your life… at the risk of developing cauliflower ears.

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