Q. I recently read that statins don’t cause memory problems. Let me tell you about my experience with statins.
Over the past two decades, I have been prescribed simvastatin, atorvastatin, fluvastatin and pravastatin. I would not call my problem memory loss. What I get is stupid. Really! It was difficult to figure out slightly complex tasks at work. I was often in a daze, unable to focus. It was like my brain could not process information. I couldn’t think — literally. I eventually stopped the statins.
I recently tried atorvastatin again. Within a week or so, I started having the same problems. Now I take gemfibrozil and niacin to control my cholesterol. They do not affect my brain.
A. Doctors disagree about whether brain fog is a side effect of statin-type cholesterol-lowering medications. An epidemiological study from Australia concluded that “statin therapy was not associated with any decline in memory or cognition over six years” (Journal of the American College of Cardiology, November 2019).
Another group of Australian scientists analyzed studies and case reports (Expert Reviews in Clinical Pharmacology, April 27, 2019). They concluded that “statin-induced cognitive decline does exist, needs to be better recognized and requires more studies of prevention and treatment.”
We doubt that this controversy will be resolved anytime soon. Anyone who would like to read more about statin side effects and other drugs that could affect cognitive function may wish to consult our book “Top Screwups.” It is available at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.
Q. I had a couple of scary nosebleeds a few years ago, and my ear, nose and throat doctor advised me to use Ayr saline nasal gel two or three times a day. He also suggested that I get a humidifier installed on my furnace. When I did this, it helped with my nose and my skin as well.
I’ve had great success with this method and haven’t had any nosebleeds since, not even a hint of blood. I’m very grateful to my ENT physician assistant for the recommendations.
This nasal gel is affordable. It’s definitely worth looking into if you have problems with dry nose.
A. Saline sprays or gels are a safe way to moisturize a dry nose. Avoid oil-based products, as they might end up in the lungs and cause inflammation.
Q. For 40 years, I suffered with an itchy scalp. I tried everything, including dandruff shampoos (though I didn’t have dandruff), cooling pillows, frozen gel packs and even prescription lotions. Nothing worked, though rubbing alcohol offered short-term relief when I was under intolerable stress.
Then I developed severe jaw pain that radiated to my ear. The doctor prescribed gabapentin twice a day for a week. My jaw and ear pain cleared up, and to my delight, so did the itchy scalp. I am now taking gabapentin daily and am free of itching.
A. Gabapentin is an anti-seizure drug that is also prescribed for persistent nerve pain after a shingles attack. Jaw pain is not a use the Food and Drug Administration has approved. Neither is itchy scalp.
We are delighted that you got relief for such a long-lasting problem. You should know, however, that gabapentin can cause some potentially serious side effects, including dizziness, depression and suicidal thoughts. You can learn more about them at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.
(In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, Fla. 32803, or email them via their website: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.)