Are these symptoms side effects from stopping the meds?

Bobfeder asked...

I quit Lipitor 3 days ago. I was getting severe leg cramps and just felt tired and fell asleep all the time. I am now taking vitamin c, around 2000mg a day and orange juice. I started to itch all over my body.

Other possible effect: I also stopped my anxiety med 4 days ago and went on St. John's Wort.

Also I bleed a lot at toilet time. I have to wipe 6 or more times to stop bleeding. Had the rectal exam twice, but it came back negative. Told me I have hemorrhoids.

Any idea about the itching or what are the side effects of quitting Lipitor? Thanks.

Expert Answer

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

You bring up alot of issues in your letter, so I will answer each item that you have brought up the best I can.

Lipitor can definitely cause body aches, so the leg cramps that you describe could have been from this medication. If you stopped it due to this side effect, please call your health care provider and let them know. They may want to do blood tests to check your liver, and they may put you on another cholesterol medication.

Regarding your complaints of itching, you should not have itching from stopping Lipitor. Your itching may be from many other causes, and can be a sign of a problem with your skin or liver. Do you have a rash? Does your itching occur during a particular time of the day or night? Are you allergic to something? I would let your health care provider know about this symptom too. They may want to examine you to find out the cause.

You mention that you are taking alot of Vitamin C, but you do not say why you have started to do this. You also stopped your anxiety medication and started St. John's Wort. First, high dose Vitamin C (more than 2000mg/day) can cause nausea, diarrhea, and, although rare, kidney stones. Suddenly stopping an anxiety medication can cause worsening breakthrough anxiety and panic attacks. St. John's Wort can help with depression, but I am not sure it helps with anxiety. Why did you switch? You need to let your health care provider know if you stop medications, especially if it was not helping you. By the way, St. John's Wort has alot of drug interactions (are you taking an antidepressant? It can interact with most of them, causing serotonin syndrome, which can be serious). Maybe this is causing your itching.

You NEED TO SEE YOUR MEDICAL PROVIDER ASAP to get your medications worked out. I understand that you are trying to be healthy by using herbs and vitamins for your problems, but remember that these are chemicals, and they have side effects, even if they are natural. Your symptoms could be from the medication switching, or you may be having a reaction to your high dose Vitamin C or St. John's Wort.

Lastly, regarding your hemorrhoids, rectal exams are fine, but the amount of bleeding you have concerns me. You should see a protologist for an evaluation of your hemorrhoids. There are numerous procedures that are available (like banding) that will stop the bleeding permanently. You need to be fully evaluated, to make sure that there is no other source of bleeding.

Good luck!