How do you know if you have rhabdomyolysis from statin use, and how likely is it?

Answer From Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, M.D.

Although mild muscle pain is a relatively common side effect of statins, some people who take statin medications to lower their cholesterol may have severe muscle pain. This intense pain may be a symptom of rhabdomyolysis (rab-doe-my-OL-ih-sis), a rare condition that causes muscle cells to break down.

The most common signs and symptoms of rhabdomyolysis include:

  • Severe muscle aching throughout the entire body
  • Muscle weakness
  • Dark or cola-colored urine

The higher the dose of statins, the higher the risk of rhabdomyolysis becomes. The risk also increases if certain drugs — including cyclosporine (Sandimmune) and gemfibrozil (Lopid) — are taken in combination with statins. However, the risk of developing rhabdomyolysis from statin therapy is very low, around 1.5 for each 100,000 people taking statins. Rhabdomyolysis or milder forms of muscle inflammation from statins can be diagnosed with a blood test measuring levels of the enzyme creatinine kinase.

If you notice moderate or severe muscle aches after starting to take a statin, contact your doctor. If you have signs and symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, stop taking your statin medication immediately and seek medical treatment right away. If necessary, your doctor may take steps to help prevent kidney damage and other complications.

With

Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, M.D.

From Mayo Clinic to your inbox

Sign up for free, and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expertise on managing health.

To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.

Nov. 17, 2022 See more Expert Answers

See also

  1. After a flood, are food and medicines safe to use?
  2. Arcus senilis: A sign of high cholesterol?
  3. Birth control pill FAQ
  4. Cholesterol concerns? Get moving
  5. Cholesterol concerns? Lose excess pounds
  6. Cholesterol level: Can it be too low?
  7. Cholesterol medications: Consider the options
  8. Cholesterol ratio or non-HDL cholesterol: Which is most important?
  9. Cholesterol test kits: Are they accurate?
  10. Cholesterol: Top foods to improve your numbers
  11. Cholesterol-lowering supplements may be helpful
  12. Coconut oil: Can it cure hypothyroidism?
  13. Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
  14. Prickly pear cactus
  15. Eggs and cholesterol
  16. Eggs: Bad for cholesterol?
  17. Fasting diet: Can it improve my heart health?
  18. Five foods to lower your cholesterol
  19. Flaxseed best when ground
  20. Hashimoto's disease
  21. HDL cholesterol: How to boost your 'good' cholesterol
  22. Herbal supplements and heart drugs
  23. High cholesterol
  24. High cholesterol in children
  25. High cholesterol treatment: Does cinnamon lower cholesterol?
  26. Hypothyroidism: Can calcium supplements interfere with treatment?
  27. Hypothyroidism diet
  28. Hypothyroidism and joint pain?
  29. Hypothyroidism: Should I take iodine supplements?
  30. Hypothyroidism symptoms: Can hypothyroidism cause eye problems?
  31. Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
  32. Is your diet hurting your heart?
  33. Lowering Triglycerides
  34. Mediterranean diet recipes
  35. Menus for heart-healthy eating
  36. Metabolic syndrome
  37. Niacin overdose: What are the symptoms?
  38. Niacin to improve cholesterol numbers
  39. Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health
  40. Pomegranate juice: Can it lower cholesterol?
  41. Soy: Does it reduce cholesterol?
  42. Soy: Does it worsen hypothyroidism?
  43. Statin side effects
  44. Statins
  45. Statins: Do they cause ALS?
  46. Statins: Should you be on one?
  47. Lifestyle changes to improve cholesterol
  48. Trans fat: A double whammy
  49. Trans fat
  50. Trans fat substitutes: Not a slam dunk
  51. Triglycerides: Why do they matter?
  52. VLDL cholesterol: Is it harmful?
  53. Wilson's syndrome: An accepted medical diagnosis?