Many people assume that cholesterol is a bad thing. It is a wax-like substance your body requires for making vitamins and cells; but, too much of this substance can harm your body. Your liver supplies almost all the cholesterol your body needs. Foods you eat – especially, animals-based foods, oils such as coconut oil, palm oil, etc. can further enhance your cholesterol levels. How? Your liver gets encouraged when fats in fairly large quantities are present in the foods you eat. As a result, it makes a larger amount of this wax-like substance. It is when there is a build-up of extra amounts of fats. Build-up of a higher proportion of fats can eventually lead to health risks such as cardiac problems, strokes, etc. Medications such as fibrates and statins are typically prescribed to fight cholesterol. Zetia is a drug which is also used to bring down cholesterol levels. But, this drug may trigger a few side effects. What are those side effects?

Cholesterol levels influence the flow of blood to all parts of your body. A high level only means risks of hardening of your blood vessels. Hardened vessels are less flexible and can lead to a condition called atherosclerosis. If left untreated, the inside walls of your arteries tend to get narrower. Over a period of time, these narrowed vessels may lead to clotting of blood; this is when the risks of a stroke or a cardiac arrest become more pronounced. Cholesterol can be either good (HDL) or bad (LDL). Most drugs work to reduce bad cholesterol. Statin, for instance, work on this principle. Some may also reduce another type of fats called triglycerides and moderately increase HDL (or, good cholesterol) levels.

Zetia for the control of cholesterol levels

Zetia (whose generic equivalent is known as ezetimibe) is a drug administered to control the supply of cholesterol to liver cells. This control is possible by restricting the absorption of fats at the intestinal level itself. Once deprived of cholesterol, cells in your liver will depend on fats that are in circulation; thus, this drug reduces the overall level of cholesterol. Your doctor may prescribe zetia along with a few changes to your diet and very often, along with a statin. The type of statins with which zetia is co-administered are pravastatin, atorvastatin, simvastatin, lovastatin or pravastatin. Its stand-alone use however is not as popular as those of statins. Zetia may also be co-administered with fenofibrate or other such fibrates. The benefits of zetia also include reduction of risks associated with cardiac arrests and strokes.

It is taken orally before or after a meal. Your physician may prescribe an optimal dosage level based on how well your body responds to the drug as well as based on the severity of your clinical condition. Common prescription of zetia is one dose each day, in general. The usually prescribed dosage level is 10 mg per day either before or after a meal. Regular intake of zetia as well as taking it at the same timeslot every day is necessary to increase its efficacy. It may take a while for the drug to act; hence, you are advised to wait for at least a fortnight for the results to show up.

Side effects of zetia

The most common side effects of zetia include pain in joints, indigestion, diarrhea, pain in your limbs or joints, respiratory problems due to blocked nasal pathways, soreness of throat, pain in sinus, etc. These discomforts may disappear after some time; however, if these effects continue for a few days, it is highly recommended to talk to your treating doctor and pharmacist. Also, the above mentioned effects do not form a full list of likely side effects. If you encounter any other discomforts, you need to report them to your medical team without delay.

Zetia is unlikely to trigger any acute side effects in most people. But, if you are allergic to a statin or a fibrate, a few people may notice damages caused to their muscles or liver. So, if you develop signs such as pain in your abdomen, discomforts in the stomach, discoloration of urine, yellowish skin or eyes, these may be indicative of a likely liver disorder. In some people, onset of a liver injury or damage can also show up as weakness, extreme level of tiredness, painful muscles, etc. Upon experiencing any of these side effects, you are advised to talk to your treating physician or pharmacist without delay.

If you are aware of any allergies or hypersensitivity to zetia and similar drugs, you need to keep your medical team informed of them. In general, side effects triggered by allergies are very uncommon. In rare instances, a few people have reported symptoms such as itchiness, rashes, respiratory problems and persistent drowsiness. Some have complained of swelling of body parts – especially, oral or facial organs. If you observe these side effects, it is highly recommended to talk to your treating doctor on an emergency basis.Most of these side effects are more pronounced among people who are aged or elderly. So, if older people are taking zetia, you need to be watchful of their movements. Such cautions are needed as the risks of falling or fainting are very high among elderly people.

If you have missed a few doses, you need to contact your pharmacist to reschedule your dosage plan. On the other hand, if you have forgotten to consume a dose, take it once you get reminded of it. But, if the missed dose is already close to your next dose, it is recommended to skip the forgotten dosage.If you take two doses in closer intervals or together, you may trigger risks of an overdose of zetia. An overdose may trigger side effects like breathing problems such as wheezing, gasping, etc. Some have also reported serious side effects such as passing out due to excessive dizziness and slowing down of breathing cycles. During such instances, if you are living in Canada, you need to get in touch with a poison control center located in your province or contact Health Canada. People living in the US may get in touch with emergency contact numbers of the food and drug administration (FDA) or call 911 immediately.

Likely risks of interactions with other drugs

If you are taking bile acid binders such as colestipol or cholestyramine, you need to take zetia at an interval of at least 2 hours before a meal or a minimum of 4 hours after a meal. You need to check with your physician or pharmacist about needful time intervals. You also need to know that such acid-binders or resins eliminate acids from your bile and thus help reduce cholesterol levels. The same precautions are needed while taking drugs like colesevelam.

Interactions with other medicines can have a telling effect on the efficacy of zetia. You need to compile a list of all other medicines you are currently consuming. While making this list, you need to include herbal medicines, dietary supplements, over the counter medications as well as prescribed drugs. Your pharmacist and treating doctor will provide safer alternatives if any of your current medication plans are in conflict with the functioning of zetia. In general, you are advised to stay fully aware of the dosage level when you are taking this drug along with any other drugs. You need to talk to your physician if you are taking blood thinning medications such as coumadin or warfarin. It is a good practice to tell your pharmacist if your medication plan includes intake of drugs like cyclosporine.

Measures to be taken to avoid likely side effects

Zetia may have some inactive chemicals or ingredients which can cause adverse reactions or allergies. Zetia is unlikely to trigger any acute side effects in most people. But, if you are allergic to a statin or a fibrate, a few people may notice damages caused to their muscles or liver. So, if you develop signs such as pain in your abdomen, discomforts in the stomach, discoloration of urine, yellowish skin or eyes, these may be indicative of a likely liver disorder. In some people, onset of a liver injury or damage can also show up as weakness, extreme level of tiredness, painful muscles, etc. Upon experiencing any of these side effects, you are advised to talk to your treating physician or pharmacist without delay.

If you are aware of any allergies or hypersensitivity to zetia and similar drugs, you need to keep your medical team informed of them. In general, side effects triggered by allergies are very uncommon. In rare instances, a few people have reported symptoms such as itchiness, rashes, respiratory problems and persistent drowsiness. Some have complained of swelling of body parts – especially, oral or facial organs. If you observe these side effects, it is highly recommended to talk to your treating doctor on an emergency basis. Most of these side effects are more pronounced among people who are aged or elderly. So, if older people are taking zetia, you need to be watchful of their movements. Such cautions are needed as the risks of falling or fainting are very high among elderly people.

If you have missed a few doses, you need to contact your pharmacist to reschedule your dosage plan. On the other hand, if you have forgotten to consume a dose, take it once you get reminded of it. But, if the missed dose is already close to your next dose, it is recommended to skip the forgotten dosage.If you take two doses in closer intervals or together, you may trigger risks of an overdose of zetia. An overdose may trigger side effects like breathing problems such as wheezing, gasping, etc. Some have also reported serious side effects such as passing out due to excessive dizziness and slowing down of breathing cycles. During such instances, if you are living in Canada, you need to get in touch with a poison control center located in your province or contact Health Canada. People living in the US may get in touch with emergency contact numbers of the food and drug administration (FDA) or call 911 immediately.

Likely risks of interactions with other drugs

If you are taking bile acid binders such as colestipol or cholestyramine, you need to take zetia at an interval of at least 2 hours before a meal or a minimum of 4 hours after a meal. You need to check with your physician or pharmacist about needful time intervals. You also need to know that such acid-binders or resins eliminate acids from your bile and thus help reduce cholesterol levels. The same precautions are needed while taking drugs like colesevelam.

Interactions with other medicines can have a telling effect on the efficacy of zetia. You need to compile a list of all other medicines you are currently consuming. While making this list, you need to include herbal medicines, dietary supplements, over the counter medications as well as prescribed drugs. Your pharmacist and treating doctor will provide safer alternatives if any of your current medication plans are in conflict with the functioning of zetia. In general, you are advised to stay fully aware of the dosage level when you are taking this drug along with any other drugs. You need to talk to your physician if you are taking blood thinning medications such as coumadin or warfarin. It is a good practice to tell your pharmacist if your medication plan includes intake of drugs like cyclosporine.

Measures to be taken to avoid likely side effects

Zetia may have some inactive chemicals or ingredients which can cause adverse reactions or allergies.

Inform your doctor and pharmacist if you have had such prior experiences. Your medical team needs to know about your family’s medical history and your clinical history. If you have conditions like liver damage, cirrhosis of liver or an underactive thyroid gland, such conditions need to be reported promptly to your medical team.

If you are taking zetia with a statin, you are advised to check the functioning of your liver on a regular basis. Your treating doctor may recommend a few tests done on your blood samples to detect the health of your liver. In order to check the efficacy of the drugs you take, it is also recommended to check your blood cholesterol levels regularly.

Your medical team will insist that intake of drugs to reduce cholesterol is only a minor part of the treatment plan. A comprehensive treatment plan includes efforts taken to control your bodyweight, a regulated diet and needful portion-control. It is highly recommended to stay away from foods that are high on trans-fats. The efficacy of zetia decreases sizeably if you do not regulate your diet plan; especially, if you continue taking fatty, oily or greasy foods.

A few cholesterol-reducing medicines may trigger damage of tissues associated with muscles; such damages may eventually lead to kidney problems. Hence, it is important to report if you are having or previously had kidney related disorders such as chronic renal dysfunction, etc. Also, if you are planning to undergo a dental procedure or a surgical intervention, your surgeon needs to know about your intake of zetia.

Women who are planning to become pregnant need to talk to their doctor prior to starting a course of zetia. This drug is generally prescribed very rarely and only if it is absolutely essential to women who are already pregnant. Your doctor will never prescribe co-administration of a statin and zetia when you are pregnant. The effects of this drug on nursing or breastfeeding mothers largely remain unknown. Hence, it is highly recommended to talk to your treating physician before starting a course of zetia. It is certainly not recommended to take zetia along with a statin while you are nursing a baby.

In sum, the most common side effects zetia may cause are diarrhea, painful joints, muscular pain, respiratory problems due to a blocked nose, throat-soreness, etc. These mild, adverse effects may go away within a few days. But, if they persist for long, you need to consult your physician as well as pharmacist. Always remember that these side effects – listed above – do not constitute an entire list. Hence, if you are experiencing other side effects, report to your medical team immediately.

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