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Simvastatin side effects reported

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Q: You may be interested in my family’s cold remedy. My mom always used to sauté chopped garlic in olive oil, spoon it up and put a little salt on it. Then she would put it in a cool spoon and give it to my sisters and me when we had just the beginning of the sniffles. They would go away fast. I’m originally from Peru.

A: We appreciate family remedies that have been passed down for generations. Many cultures value garlic and onions for their healing properties.

Readers tell us that onion syrup has been used against coughs for decades. The onion was sliced thinly and cooked slowly with some sweetening and a little liquid. Here is one reader’s story: “My mother prepared onion syrup when I was a child in the 1940s and ’50s, but she used honey instead of sugar.

“On my first trip to India in 1986, I accompanied a local doctor to villages where she was teaching assistants to distinguish between minor ailments that could be treated with local remedies and major problems that needed professional care in the nearest large village. One of the remedies used for minor coughs was an onion syrup sweetened with natural sugar processed from the local sugarcane fields.”

We like the idea that an onion relative, garlic, also would be helpful against colds. This aromatic bulb has been used against colds, flu, fever and a host of other complaints.

Q: I was one heck of a skeptic when I heard about putting soap in the bed to calm restless leg syndrome. In fact, I laughed at the person who told me about it. However, I have suffered with RLS for several years, so I decided to give it a try.

Well, I had to eat a little humble pie. Not only does soap work, it works in a matter of 30 seconds to a minute. I’m sure it will not work for everyone, every time. But it sure has helped me and a dozen people I’ve told about it. We may not know exactly how it works, and there may be folks who think it is bogus. Well, they are just plain wrong.

I put my bar of soap in a pillowcase and rest my leg or legs on the pillow under the cover. This works to ease the restlessness every time.

A: Thank you for your story. We have heard from many other people who find soap helpful for restless leg syndrome, but, as you recognize, not all benefit. There are prescription drugs used to treat those with serious RLS, but the medications have some daunting side effects, such as falling asleep during the day while driving or eating. Dizziness, fainting, sleepiness, fatigue, gambling and other compulsive behaviors, indigestion, nausea, pain, swollen legs, dry mouth and hallucinations are other potential reactions.

We offer some approaches to managing restless legs with supplements or measures other than drugs. Again, not every treatment will be effective in each case.

Q: I am 44 years old and took simvastatin for five years. I was very active and full of energy before taking simvastatin. Gradually, I lost strength in my body, especially in my left leg. I could hardly raise it to get out of a car or chair. I also began to have memory problems, muscle cramps, muscle twitching and fatigue.

I went to the emergency room when I got so weak I could hardly walk. There was fear I might have multiple sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease, but the tests came back normal.

I was told to stay off simvastatin for four to six weeks. I have noticed huge changes in only two weeks. The fatigue has gone, I can walk again, my memory and concentration are improved, my strength has returned, and my left leg is feeling better!

The neurologist does not think simvastatin could have caused these side effects, but I am convinced it did. Are there alternative ways to lower cholesterol?

A: The muscle pain and weakness you experienced have been reported by hundreds of visitors to our website (www.PeoplesPharmacy.com). We also have heard from many people that statins can cause muscle twitching, fatigue, memory problems and symptoms similar to Lou Gehrig’s disease.

There are other ways to control cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Ask your doctor about drugs such as cholestyramine, niacin and aspirin. One reader shared this experience: “I have taken a number of different statins through the years and always had muscle pain. My doctor recently had me try cholestyramine. It seems to be working fine with no muscle pain. I am surprised it isn’t better-known.”

Write to Joe and Teresa Graedon via their website: PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”

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