Doctors may prescribe statins to manage cholesterol levels for some people with kidney failure. However, the risks of this medication include further kidney damage, rhabdomyolysis, and liver inflammation.
When creating a treatment plan for someone with kidney failure, doctors will also look to address and treat any complications or additional conditions.
However, before prescribing statins, doctors will assess the risks and benefits of this medication for the individual, as statins can lead to further kidney damage.
This article explains what statins are, whether they can improve kidney function, the potential risks and side effects of the medication, and other treatment options for people with kidney failure.
Statins are a group of medications
Statins disrupt the production of cholesterol in the liver and help the liver remove cholesterol already present in the blood. Examples of statins include:
- lovastatin (Mevacor)
- atorvastatin (Lipitor)
- rosuvastatin (Crestor)
- pravastatin (Pravachol)
- fluvastatin (Lescol)
A doctor may prescribe statins to people with high cholesterol, because excess cholesterol in the blood can lead to the formation of plaque.
Statins may help protect the kidneys in certain circumstances, although experts need to conduct more research to confirm this.
However, the review concludes that there is insufficient evidence to recommend the routine use of statins for kidney protection.
- Rhabdomyolysis: This is a
rare conditionthat breaks down damaged muscles, releasing muscle cells into the blood. It can lead toadditional complications, including kidney damage or failure, permanent disability, and death.
- Myopathy: Myopathies are conditions that
can causemuscle weakness. Complications of myopathies include heart and kidney failure and irreversible muscle damage. In some cases, they can lead to death.
- Hepatotoxicity: This term refers to liver toxicity, in which the liver becomes inflamed due to medication.
- Diabetes: Statins may increase the risk of diabetes, which affects the body’s ability to process blood sugar.
According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), statins may cause the following side effects:
Treatment for kidney failure
- Hemodialysis: This treatment uses a machine to filter waste from a person’s blood.
- Kidney transplant: In a kidney transplant, surgeons will remove a person’s kidney and replace it with a healthy kidney from a donor.
- Peritoneal dialysis: This type of dialysis uses the natural filtering ability of a person’s abdominal lining to filter waste from the blood.
People can speak with their doctor about the treatment options available to them to decide on the best course.
People with kidney failure who are taking statins should receive regular follow-ups from their doctor to monitor their kidney health.
They should also speak with their doctor if they experience side effects due to statins that affect their daily life. A doctor may be able to adjust the person’s treatment plan and find alternative ways to manage their cholesterol.
An individual should contact a doctor as a matter of urgency if they have symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, such as:
If a person with kidney failure also experiences heart disease, doctors may prescribe statins to manage cholesterol levels and treat the heart condition.
However, statins have risks and side effects that doctors will consider before prescribing them. Statin use increases the risk of damage to the kidneys, which could worsen the health of someone with kidney failure.
This medication can also increase the risk of conditions such as rhabdomyolysis, which can cause kidney damage, disability, and death. A person should speak with their doctor to find the best treatment options if they are experiencing kidney failure.