If you have high cholesterol or a high risk of heart disease, your doctor might suggest Lipitor as a treatment option for you.

Lipitor is a prescription medication that’s used together with a balanced diet to lower cholesterol levels in adults and some children. The drug is also used to reduce other heart risks in adults with high cholesterol.

The generic name for Lipitor is atorvastatin, which is also the drug’s active ingredient. An active ingredient is what makes a drug work.

Lipitor comes as a tablet that you swallow. If this medication works for you, your doctor will likely recommend you take it long term.

For more information about Lipitor, including details about its uses, see this in-depth article.

Like other drugs, Lipitor can cause mild to serious side effects, also called adverse effects. Keep reading to learn more.

Some people may experience mild to serious side effects during Lipitor treatment. Examples of Lipitor’s commonly reported side effects include:

* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Side effects explained” section below.

Examples of mild side effects that have been reported with Lipitor include:

* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Side effects explained” section below.

In most cases, these side effects are temporary. And some may be easily managed. But if you have any symptoms that are ongoing or bother you, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. And, do not stop taking Lipitor unless your doctor recommends it.

Lipitor may cause mild side effects other than the ones listed above. See the drug’s prescribing information for details.

Note: After the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves a drug, it tracks side effects of the medication. If you’d like to notify the FDA about a side effect you’ve had with Lipitor, visit MedWatch.

Serious side effects that have been reported with Lipitor include:

  • serious muscle pain
  • rhabdomyolysis, a serious condition caused by the breakdown of muscle
  • immune-mediated necrotizing myopathy, a rare muscle condition
  • liver damage*
  • severe allergic reaction*†

* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Side effects explained” section below.
† An allergic reaction is possible after using Lipitor. But it’s unclear whether this side effect occurred in studies.

If you develop serious side effects while taking Lipitor, call your doctor right away. If the side effects seem life threatening or you think you’re having a medical emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number.

Get answers to some frequently asked questions about Lipitor’s side effects.

Do Lipitor and atorvastatin (generic name for Lipitor) have similar side effects?

Yes. Lipitor and its generic version, atorvastatin, typically have the same side effects. Both drugs contain the same active ingredient, which is atorvastatin. An active ingredient is what makes a drug work.

But the inactive ingredients in Lipitor and atorvastatin may be different. So it’s possible to have different side effects due to the inactive ingredients in these drugs.

If you’re interested in switching between the brand-name and generic forms of Lipitor, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They can discuss with you possible differences in the generic’s side effects compared with Lipitor’s.

Is there any difference between the side effects Lipitor may cause in females and males?

No, Lipitor should not cause different side effects in females and males.* In studies of Lipitor, there weren’t differences in side effects in men compared with side effects in women.

It’s important to note that females should not take Lipitor during pregnancy or breastfeeding. This is because the drug may cause other side effects while pregnant and breastfeeding. For more information, see the “Warnings for Lipitor” section below.

* In this article, we use the terms “male,” “female,” “men,” and “women” to refer to someone’s sex assigned at birth. For information about the difference between sex and gender, see this article.

Does my risk of side effects depend on what dose of Lipitor I take (10 mg, 20 mg, 40 mg, and 80 mg)?

It’s possible that the strength of Lipitor you take may change your risk of side effects. Lipitor is available in four strengths:

  • 10 milligrams (mg)
  • 20 mg
  • 40 mg
  • 80 mg

Taking a higher dose of Lipitor may increase the risk of side effects. So, if you’re taking a dose of 80 mg per day, your risk of side effects may be higher than that of someone taking a 10-mg dose.

If you’re having side effects from taking Lipitor, talk with your doctor. They can check whether your dose of Lipitor needs adjusting.

For more information about Lipitor’s dosages, see this article.

Are weight gain and hair loss side effects of Lipitor?

No, weight gain and hair loss are not side effects of Lipitor.

But there may be a link between taking statin medications such as Lipitor and an increase in appetite. An older study showed that people taking statins consumed more calories and fat than people not taking such drugs. So it is possible that this increase in appetite may lead to weight gain. But this was not reported in studies of the drug.

If you’re taking Lipitor to reduce your risk of heart problems due to type 2 diabetes, you may notice hair loss. This is because diabetes may increase the risk of hair loss in females and males.*

If you have weight gain or hair loss during your treatment with Lipitor, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They may be able to recommend ways to manage your weight gain or hair loss.

* In this article, we use the term “female” to refer to someone’s sex assigned at birth. For information about the difference between sex and gender, see this article.

Does Lipitor cause any eye-related side effects?

Although rare, it’s possible for Lipitor to cause blurry vision. This side effect was reported in studies of Lipitor.

In addition, eye-related side effects may be a symptom of another side effect that Lipitor causes. Lipitor can increase your risk of liver problems. One side effect of liver problems is yellowing of the eyes or skin.

If you have yellowing of the eyes or other eye-related changes while you’re taking Lipitor, contact your doctor. They can find out what may be causing your eye-related side effects and the best way to treat them.

Learn more about some of the side effects Lipitor may cause.

Muscle pain

You may develop muscle pain during treatment with Lipitor. Muscle pain was a common side effect reported in studies of the drug.

This side effect can be mild or severe. In some cases, muscle pain can also be a sign of a more serious side effect. Examples include rhabdomyolysis, a condition caused by the breakdown of muscle, and immune-mediating necrotizing myopathy, a rare muscle condition.

What might help

If you have muscle pain while taking Lipitor, talk with your doctor. They can determine what may be causing it.

If your muscle pain is mild, your doctor may recommend decreasing your Lipitor dose to see if the side effect lessens.

If you have severe muscle pain, contact your doctor as soon as possible. This may be a sign of a more serious condition. Your doctor might recommend that you stop taking Lipitor right away. And they’ll likely check you for rhabdomyolysis or immune-mediating necrotizing myopathy.

Liver damage

It’s possible to develop liver damage from taking statin medications such as Lipitor. Although liver damage was not a common side effect, it may still occur during Lipitor treatment.

Lipitor may cause increases in liver enzymes, which may indicate liver damage. Symptoms of liver damage include:

What might help

If you have any symptoms of liver damage during your treatment with Lipitor, tell your doctor right away. They can order blood tests to see how well your liver is working.

Your doctor will also check your liver function by ordering blood tests before you start taking Lipitor and throughout treatment.

If you develop increased liver enzymes or liver damage during treatment with Lipitor, your doctor may recommend decreasing your dose of Lipitor. Or they may pause your treatment until your liver enzyme levels increase to the point that it’s safe to resume treatment.

In more severe cases, your doctor may recommend that you take a different medication instead of Lipitor to treat your condition.

Joint pain

Lipitor can cause joint pain. This was one of the more common side effects reported in studies of Lipitor.

What might help

If you experience joint pain during your treatment with Lipitor, tell your doctor. They may be able to recommend ways to decrease this side effect. For example, they may suggest taking an over-the-counter pain medication, such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil (ibuprofen).

Diarrhea

It’s possible that you may have diarrhea during Lipitor treatment. Diarrhea was a common side effect reported in studies of the drug.

Symptoms of diarrhea include:

  • belly pain or cramping
  • bloating
  • watery stools
  • having frequent bowel movements

What might help

If you have diarrhea while taking Lipitor, tell your doctor. They can determine whether Lipitor is causing your diarrhea and the best ways to treat it.

If you have diarrhea, it is important to stay hydrated. Your doctor or pharmacist may also be able to recommend other ways to treat your diarrhea. For example, they may recommend taking an over-the-counter medication such as Imodium (loperamide).

Allergic reaction

Like most drugs, Lipitor can cause an allergic reaction in some people. But it’s not clear whether this side effect occurred in studies.

Symptoms can be mild to serious and can include:

  • skin rash
  • itchiness
  • flushing (temporary warmth, redness, or deepening of skin color)
  • swelling under your skin, usually in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet
  • swelling of your mouth, tongue, or throat, which can make it hard to breathe

What might help

If you have mild symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as a mild rash, call your doctor right away. They may suggest a treatment to manage your symptoms. Examples include:

  • an antihistamine you take by mouth, such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine)
  • a product you apply to your skin, such as hydrocortisone cream

If your doctor confirms you’ve had a mild allergic reaction to Lipitor, they’ll decide if you should continue using it.

If you have symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, such as swelling or trouble breathing, call 911 or your local emergency number right away. These symptoms could be life threatening and require immediate medical care.

If your doctor confirms you’ve had a serious allergic reaction to Lipitor, they may have you switch to a different treatment.

Keeping track of side effects

During your Lipitor treatment, consider taking notes on any side effects you’re having. You can then share this information with your doctor. This is especially helpful when you start taking new drugs or using a combination of treatments.

Your side effect notes can include things such as:

  • what dose of the drug you were taking when you had the side effect
  • how soon you had the side effect after starting that dose
  • what your symptoms were
  • how it affected your daily activities
  • what other medications you were taking
  • any other information you feel is important

Keeping notes and sharing them with your doctor will help them learn more about how Lipitor affects you. They can then use this information to adjust your treatment plan if needed.

Lipitor may not be right for you if you have certain medical conditions. These are known as drug-condition interactions. Other factors may also affect whether Lipitor is a good treatment option for you.

Talk with your doctor about your health history before starting Lipitor. The list below includes factors to consider.

Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to Lipitor or any of its ingredients, your doctor will likely not prescribe Lipitor. Ask them what other medications are better options for you.

Diabetes. It’s possible that Lipitor may worsen diabetes. If you have diabetes, tell your doctor before starting treatment with Lipitor. Your doctor can determine if it’s safe for you to take the drug. Or they may recommend a different treatment option for you.

Thyroid problems. People with certain thyroid problems may have an increased risk of side effects, such as muscle pain, from taking Lipitor. Before you start taking Lipitor, tell your doctor about any thyroid problems that you have. Your doctor can help treat your thyroid condition before Lipitor treatment.

Kidney problems. Lipitor can cause muscle problems, which in rare cases may lead to kidney problems. If you already have kidney problems, taking this medication may worsen your condition. Your doctor can determine if it’s safe for you to take Lipitor with your kidney condition.

Stroke or mini-stroke in the last 6 months. Taking Lipitor after having a stroke or mini-stroke in the last 6 months may increase your risk of having another stroke. If you’ve had a recent stroke or mini-stroke, tell your doctor before starting treatment with Lipitor.

Liver problems. People with liver problems should not use Lipitor due to the risk of harm. Lipitor may cause liver problems to occur. If you already have a liver problem, taking this drug may worsen your condition. Due to this risk, your doctor will likely recommend a different treatment option for you.

Alcohol and Lipitor

There aren’t any known interactions between Lipitor and alcohol. But alcohol and Lipitor can both cause liver damage. So drinking alcohol while taking Lipitor may increase the risk of liver problems even more.

Talk with your doctor about how much alcohol may be safe to drink during Lipitor treatment.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding while taking Lipitor

Lipitor is not safe to take during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.

Currently, there is not enough information to determine if Lipitor affects a developing fetus, but it is possible. So, you should not take the drug during pregnancy.

It’s also unknown if Lipitor passes into breast milk or has an effect on a breastfeeding child. Due to the possibility of harm to your child, you should not breastfeed while taking Lipitor.

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding or planning to become pregnant or breastfeed, tell your doctor before starting Lipitor treatment. They will likely recommend a different treatment option for you.

You may have side effects during your treatment with Lipitor. In most cases, its side effects are mild. But it’s possible to develop serious side effects from this medication.

Before you start treatment with Lipitor, talk with your doctor about side effects that could occur. Here are some questions to help get you started:

  • Can Lipitor cause long-term side effects?
  • Do I have an increased risk of Lipitor’s side effects due to my other medical conditions?
  • How do the side effects of Lipitor compare with those of other drugs used to treat my condition?
  • What should I do if I become pregnant during treatment with Lipitor?

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Disclaimer: Healinggeeks has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.