Atorvastatin Side Effects

What is Atorvastatin?

Atorvastatin belongs to a class of drugs known as statins (HMG CoA reductase inhibitors). It is used to reduce levels of triglycerides and low density lipoprotein (LDL) also known as bad cholesterol in the body hence preventing or controlling conditions caused by high cholesterol. It is administered orally. 1,2

ATORVASTATIN side effects


Atorvastatin is indicated for use in management of several conditions:1,2

  • Prevention of cardiovascular diseases e.g. heart attack, stroke etc. for patients with risk factors like age, smoking, high blood pressure etc.
  • To lower the risk of cardiovascular complications in people with type 2 diabetes or other risk factors e.g. coronary heart disease.
  • Treatment of various forms of dyslipidemia e.g. heterozygous and homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia, Fredrickson type IV, Fredrickson type III and combined hyperlipidemia.
  • Secondary prevention of unstable angina, myocardial infarction, stroke and revascularization in patients already suffering coronary heart disease.
  • Plaque-stabilizing in patients with thrombotic stroke and acute coronary syndrome.


Dosage of atorvastatin differs depending on the type of condition and patient being treated. 10mg (maximum of 20) per for children with heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia. Adults are given 10mg to 80mg per day. Atorvastatin can be taken at any time of the day with or without food. Dosage is usually reviewed after two to four weeks.1,2

Side Effects

Atorvastatin Side Effects differ in patients depending on their dosage, pre-existing health conditions and medication being taken simultaneously2,3,4,5

Not all side effects of atorvastatin require medical attention as some go away on their own, or can be managed at home. Some side effects however are serious and should immediately be reported to a doctor.

Central Nervous System Effects

Headache is the most commonly reported central nervous system side effect reported by up to ten percent of patients using atorvastatin.

Uncommon side effects experienced by less than one percent of users are dizziness, dygeusia, paresthesia, hypoesthesia and amnesia.

Peripheral neuropathy, nonfatal hemorrhagic stroke, memory loss, cognitive impairment, memory impairment and forgetfulness are rare psychological side effects of atorvastatin use.

Symptoms of hemorrhagic stroke should be immediately reported to the doctor these include: lack of balance, severe headache, poor vision, slurred speech and sudden weakness or numbness (usually on one side of the body)

Gastrointestinal Effects

The most commonly reported gastrointestinal side effectof atorvastatin is diarrhea which occurs in up to ten percent of all users. Other common gastrointestinal effects include flatulence, dyspepsia, constipation and nausea.

Rarer side effects of atorvastatin on the gastrointestinal system are vomiting, abdominal discomfort, eructation, abdominal pain and pancreatitis.

Respiratory Effects

Nasopharyngitis (the swelling of the back of the throat and of the nasal passages) is the most common respiratory side effect of atorvastatin use and is reported in up to thirteen percent of users.

Other common side effects of atorvastatin are epistaxis and pharyngolaryngeal pain. Respiratory side effects that are reported in less than one percent of atorvastatin users are asthma, pharyngitis, sinusitis and interstitial lung disease.

Hepatic Effects

Common hepatic side effects of atorvastatin that are increase in the blood level of bilirubin, abnormal liver function test, increase in levels of hepatic enzymes and increase in blood alkaline phosphatase.

These internal changes manifest through signs like clay colored stool, dark urine, fatigue, jaundice (yellowing of the eyes or skin), severe upper stomach or abdominal pain, dark urine and persistent nausea or vomiting. Inform your doctor if these symptoms occur simultaneously.

Cholestasis, hepatitis, nonfatal hepatic failure and fatal hepatic failure are uncommon side effects of atorvastatin reported in less than one percent of users.

Metabolic Effects

Hyperglycemia is the most common metabolic side effect of atorvastatin reported in up to ten percent of all users.

Metabolic side effects of atorvastatin that are less common include increased appetite, weight gain, hypoglycemia, anorexia, diabetes mellitus, lack or loss of strength, sweating and increased thirst.

Psychiatric Effects

Insomnia and disturbance in the natural sleep patterns are the most common psychiatric side effect of atorvastatin use and is reported in around ten percent of users. Less common psychiatric side effects of atorvastatin use are nightmares, depression and confusion.

Musculoskeletal Effects

Patients using atorvastatin report arthralgia which is medically defined as pain and stiffness and or pain in the joints as the most common musculoskeletal side effect.

Other common musculoskeletal side effects of atorvastatin include muscle spasms, pain in extremities, back pain, neck pain, swelling of joints, increase in levels of enzyme creatine phosphokinase and myalgia.

Rare musculoskeletal side effects of atorvastatin are myopathy, myositis, tendinopathy, rhabdomyolysis, immune mediate necrotizing myopathy and tendon rapture.


Allergic reactions reported in up to ten percent of atorvastatin users. Hypersensitivity to the drug manifests in different ways for different patients includingangioneurotic edema(swelling or itchiness of the face, tongue or throat), bullous rashes (for example toxic epidermal necrolysis, Stevens-Johnson syndrome and erythema multiforme), severe dizziness and trouble breathing.

Any hypersensitive reactions to atorvastatin should be immediately reported to a physician. Life threatening allergic reactions like anaphylaxis rarely occur.

Genitourinary Effects

The most commonly reported genitourinary side effect of atorvastatin is urinary tract infection.

Patients using atorvastatin might also suffer the following effects: painful or difficult urination, bloody or cloudy urine, difficult, burning, or painful urination,groin or scrotum pain, increased urination, loss of bladder control and loss of sexual ability, drive, or desire

Erectile dysfunction and presence of white blood cells in urine are the less common side effects of atorvastatin use.

Renal Effects

In rare cases atorvastatin causes breakdown of skeletal muscles causing kidney failure in some patients especially those with a history of renal disease.

The following symptoms point to renal side effects of atorvastatin:

  • Difficulty or pain urinating
  • Decreased urine production
  • Lower frequency of urination
  • Swelling of the feet or ankles
  • Shortness of breath and weakness or fatigue accompanied by fever.

Ocular Effects

Atorvastatin rarely affects the ophthalmic system but in some patients it can have the following effects: red, irritated eyes, blurred vision, difficulty seeing at night and increased sensitivity of the eyes to light.

Other Effects

Atorvastatin has other assorted side effects that include:

  • Tinnitus or other complications related to sound perception e.g. hearing loss.
  • General malaise
  • Tenderness or pain around the eyes and cheekbones.


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