If you have high cholesterol or are at risk for certain cardiovascular problems, you may be interested in learning more about atorvastatin. It’s a generic prescription drug used in adults to:

Atorvastatin is also used to lower certain types of high cholesterol in some children.

Atorvastatin (also known as “atorvastatin calcium”) comes as a tablet that you swallow. If the drug works for you, your doctor will likely recommend that you take it long term.

This article describes atorvastatin’s side effects. (These are also known as “adverse effects” or “complications.”) For more information about atorvastatin, including details about its uses, see this in-depth article.

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

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

It’s possible for atorvastatin to cause side effects. Most of the side effects reported by people taking this drug are mild and include:

* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Side effects explained” section below.
† An allergic reaction is possible after using atorvastatin, but it’s not clear whether this side effect occurred in studies.

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

Atorvastatin may cause mild side effects other than those 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 atorvastatin, visit MedWatch.

While mild side effects are more commonly reported in people taking atorvastatin, serious side effects are possible too. Serious side effects that have been reported with this drug include:

If you develop serious side effects while taking atorvastatin, 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.

* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Side effects explained” section below.
† An allergic reaction is possible after taking atorvastatin, but it’s not clear whether this side effect occurred in studies.

Although side effects reported with all tablet strengths are the same, taking a higher dose of atorvastatin may increase your risk of these side effects. For example, people taking 80-mg doses may experience more side effects than those taking 20-mg doses. And those taking 40 mg daily may have more side effects than people taking 10 mg daily.

Talk with your doctor about any side effects that you have with atorvastatin. They’ll help determine the best dosage of the drug for you.

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

Is hair loss a side effect of atorvastatin?

No, you shouldn’t experience hair loss from taking atorvastatin. This wasn’t a side effect reported in studies of people taking the drug. If you notice hair loss, talk with your doctor about what may be causing it. In some cases other conditions, such as diabetes or thyroid problems, can cause hair loss.

Once your doctor has determined the cause of your hair loss, they can recommend the best way to treat it. For example, they may suggest using an over-the-counter (OTC) medication, such as Rogaine (minoxidil).

Be sure to talk with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any OTC medications. They’ll let you know if they’re safe to take with atorvastatin or the condition atorvastatin is treating.

Will I have withdrawal symptoms if I stop taking this drug?

You shouldn’t experience withdrawal symptoms from stopping atorvastatin. (Withdrawal symptoms are side effects that can occur when you stop taking a drug that your body has become dependent on.)

In studies, withdrawal symptoms weren’t reported with this drug. But atorvastatin works to decrease your cholesterol and reduce your risk of certain heart problems. So stopping treatment may result in an increase in your cholesterol levels and your risk of heart problems. But you may not notice these increased risks since these conditions may not cause symptoms.

If you’d like to stop taking atorvastatin, talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you.

Can atorvastatin cause any long-term side effects?

Although uncommon, it’s possible for atorvastatin to cause long-term side effects. These side effects may improve over time, especially if you stop taking the drug. Examples of long-term side effects that may occur include:

If you’re concerned about long-term side effects from atorvastatin, talk with your doctor. If you develop any of these side effects, your doctor may recommend decreasing your dose or having you try a different treatment option.

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

Muscle pain

You may experience muscle pain during your treatment with atorvastatin. This was one of the most common side effects reported in studies of the drug.

Muscle pain from atorvastatin can be mild to severe. In severe cases, it’s possible for muscle pain to be related to a different condition caused by atorvastatin, such as:

  • rhabdomyolysis
  • immune-mediating necrotizing myopathy (IMNM), which is a very rare condition in which your immune system attacks your muscle cells

Other symptoms of rhabdomyolysis and IMNM can include muscle weakness and fatigue (low energy).

With rhabdomyolysis, you may also have any of the following symptoms:

Be sure to tell your doctor about any muscle pain you have.

What might help

Since muscle pain could be due to a more serious condition, it’s important to tell your doctor about any muscle pain or other symptoms of these conditions you have. Rhabdomyolysis and IMNM may also lead to other serious complications, including kidney problems.

Your doctor will monitor you for muscle pain and symptoms of rhabdomyolysis IMNM during your atorvastatin treatment. If you do develop muscle pain, your doctor can help determine the cause and the best treatment option for you.

If your muscle pain is mild, your doctor may recommend that you take a lower dose of atorvastatin. But if your pain is severe, they may recommend that you stop taking the drug and try a different treatment for your condition.

Liver damage

Liver damage is a possible side effect from atorvastatin. It’s possible that this drug can cause an increase in your liver enzyme levels, which may indicate liver damage.

Tell your doctor right away if you develop any symptoms of liver damage. These can include:

What might help

Before you start taking atorvastatin, your doctor will order liver function tests for you. These tests help doctors know the health of your liver by measuring liver enzyme levels. They’ll then monitor your liver throughout your treatment. If you develop symptoms of liver problems, tell your doctor right away. They’ll likely check your liver by ordering another liver function blood test.

If you have increased liver enzyme levels, your doctor will help determine the next steps in your treatment plan. They may recommend a lower dose of atorvastatin or have you stop taking the drug altogether. In the latter case, they’ll recommend a different treatment for your condition.

Joint pain

You may experience joint pain from atorvastatin. This was one of the most common side effects reported in studies of the drug.

What might help

If you have joint pain from taking atorvastatin, talk with your doctor. They may be able to recommend ways to manage the pain. For example, they may suggest a cream for joint pain that you apply to your skin or other over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).

Allergic reaction

Like most drugs, atorvastatin 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 atorvastatin, 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 atorvastatin, they may have you switch to a different treatment.

Keeping track of side effects

During your atorvastatin 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 first 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 atorvastatin affects you. They can then use this information to adjust your treatment plan if needed.

Atorvastatin can sometimes cause harmful effects in people who have certain conditions. This is known as a drug-condition interaction. Other factors may also affect whether atorvastatin is a good treatment option for you. Talk with your doctor about your health history before starting this drug. Factors to consider include those described below.

Diabetes. Tell your doctor if you have diabetes before you start taking atorvastatin. It’s possible for this drug to increase blood sugar levels, and if you have diabetes, this could make the condition worse. Your doctor can help determine if atorvastatin may be a safe treatment option for you in this case.

Kidney problems. If you have kidney problems, tell your doctor before starting atorvastatin. This medication may cause muscle conditions. And rarely, these muscle conditions may increase your risk of kidney problems. If you already have a kidney condition, atorvastatin may worsen your condition. In this case, your doctor can recommend the safest treatment option for you.

Stroke or ministroke in the last 6 months. Tell your doctor if you’ve had a recent stroke or ministroke (transient ischemic attack). Atorvastatin may increase the risk of stroke in people who have had a stroke or ministroke within the past 6 months. Your doctor can help determine if atorvastatin may be safe for you to take in this case.

Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to atorvastatin or any of its ingredients, your doctor will likely not prescribe it for you. Ask them about other medications that might be better options.

Thyroid conditions. If you have a thyroid condition, tell your doctor before starting atorvastatin. The risk of certain side effects from atorvastatin, such as muscle pain, can be increased if you have thyroid problems. Your doctor may monitor you more often for side effects in this case.

Liver problems. Tell your doctor about any liver problems you have before starting atorvastatin. This drug may cause liver problems and can make existing liver conditions worse. Due to this risk, doctors typically will not prescribe atorvastatin for people with liver problems. In this case, your doctor can recommend the best treatment option for you.

Alcohol and atorvastatin

Atorvastatin may not be safe to take if you drink more than 2 glasses of alcohol per day. This is because atorvastatin and alcohol can both cause liver problems.

Talk with your doctor about how much alcohol, if any, may be safe for you to consume while taking atorvastatin.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding while taking atorvastatin

There aren’t currently enough studies to know what effects atorvastatin may have when taken during pregnancy. But it’s possible the drug may cause harm to a developing fetus. Due to the possible risks, it’s not considered safe to take atorvastatin during pregnancy.

It’s also not known if atorvastatin shows up in breastmilk or what effects the drug may have on a breastfed baby. But because of the possible risks, breastfeeding is not recommended while taking this drug.

Talk with your doctor if you’re pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding. They can help you determine the best treatment plan for your condition or the best way to feed your child.

In most cases, side effects from atorvastatin are mild, but it’s possible to develop severe side effects as well. If you still have questions about the side effects of this drug, talk with your doctor.

You can also ask them about Lipitor, which is the brand-name version of atorvastatin, a generic drug. This means atorvastatin contains an exact copy of the active ingredient in Lipitor. (An active ingredient is what makes a drug work.) Generic drugs are thought to be just as safe and effective as the brand-name drug they’re based on and usually cost less. Talk with your doctor to learn more.

You may wish to discuss the possible side effects of atorvastatin with your doctor before starting treatment. Here are some examples of questions to help get you started:

  • Is my risk of side effects higher due to the other medications I’m taking?
  • Does my risk of side effects depend on my dosage?
  • If I experience bothersome side effects, can my dosage be decreased?

To learn more about atorvastatin or Lipitor, see these articles:

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Disclaimer: Healthline 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.