Cholesterol Medications & Nerve Injuries

Did you know that cholesterol medications can cause nerve injuries? Commonly used Statin drugs can cause nerve injury and unless treated early they can lead to permanent nerve damage.

Approximately 10-20 million people in the US suffer from a condition called Peripheral Neuropathy. What are the early signs of concern? Numbness, tingling, burning legs and feet, stabbing pains that turn into burning electric shocks, and loss of hot or cold feeling on your skin. According to the “American Association of Electrodiagnostic Medicine” there are some 50 drugs (LIST) they found most likely to cause nerve damage (Neuropathy).

The list of potentially damaging agents include:  chemotherapy treatments for cancer, dialysis and diseases such as  hepatitis and of course diabetes which has the greatest risk of developing neuropathy.  So, this is a really big problem you don’t hear much about, unless you are one of the millions of people who suffer from this insidious loss of our precious nervous system.

Our nation is in the midst of a  Diabetes epidemic estimated to affect one in three in the next ten years. (According to the American Diabetes Association Data from the 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet released Jan. 26, 2011 Total: 25.8 million children and adults in the United States—8.3% of the population—have diabetes).

And the most perplexing thing  about this epidemic, is that we can control it, and even stop it, by making better choices with our food, regular exercise and lowering  our blood sugar with nutritional supplements. We even have “healthy chocolate” which can lower blood sugar by utilizing herbs and antioxidants without sugar! As a member of “The American Diabetes Association” I participate in many events during the year that educate the public about things we can all do to prevent and if necessary manage Diabetes type II. 

Other causes of Neuropathy include:  spinal injury, stenosis, surgery  and even a snake bite (because the venom is a Neuro toxin). Since neuropathy most frequently affects people over the age of 60 we need to talk about the aging process, but that is a subject for a future article.

Today, there are new methods of restoring some of the nerve function and managing Peripheral Neuropathy by using conservative manual therapy and modalities which stimulate and metabolic nutrition to nourish the injured tissues. This diagnosis and treatment requires a doctor who has special training in the clinical examination process. Nerves are more difficult to heal than other tissues in the body such as muscles and bones because they heal at a very slow rate (1 inch per month) compared to other tissues of our body.  For  those who get peripheral neuropathy walking is actually a poor choice of exercise.  Swimming or bicycling are preferred because they have little to no impact. I would bet, that if you thought  about it, you actually know somebody right now that has Neuropathy and is either not aware there are new treatments or is in denial because the symptoms have not reached critical mass in severity.

For years we have been told by commercials and doctors alike that high cholesterol was bad and that you should take drugs (mostly Statins) to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. But that was only a part of the puzzle as it is now unfolding.  It turns out, that it’s not how high or low your cholesterol is but whether the types of particles that make up “your” cholesterol are dangerous and put you at high risk. Certain particles are dangerous and others are not. So it is possible to have high cholesterol and be low risk while you can have low total cholesterol and be high risk! We now have lipid profiles to determine your true risk factor and not just HDL and LDL.

Additionally, utilization of a carotid ultrasound for soft plaque examination and CT scan for hard plaque in the heart are the preferred method for additional risk analysis. So the  medication you thought was protecting you may not  protect your type of cholesterol particles any better than Niacin, Red yeast extract, plant sterols or fish oil which have not been shown to ever damage nerves.


Sydney Sharon