Association of statins with sensory and autonomic ganglionopathy

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OBJECTIVE: To examine if statins have an effect on small nerve fibers.<br /><br />METHODS: This retrospective study evaluated the effect of statins in pure small-fiber neuropathy (SFN). Outcome measures were symptom scales (numbness, tingling, and autonomic symptoms), skin biopsies assessing epidermal nerve fiber density (ENFD), sweat gland nerve fiber density (SGNFD), and quantitative autonomic testing.<br /><br />RESULTS: One hundred and sixty participants with pure SFN were identified. Eighty participants (women/men, age ± SD 33/47, 68.1 ± 11.6 years old) were on statins for 53.5 ± 28.7 months to treat dyslipidemia and they were age and gender matched with 80 participants (33/47, 68.1 ± 9.5) that were off statins. ANOVA showed reduced ENFD/SGNFD at the proximal leg in the statin group [(count/mm) 8.3 ± 3.6/51.3 ± 14.2] compared to the off statin group (10.4 ± 3.8, p = 0.0008/56.4 ± 12.7, p = 0.018). There was no difference in ENFD/SGNFD at the distal leg in the statin group (4.9 ± 3.2/39.8 ± 15.7) compared to the off statin group (5.9 ± 3.4, p = 0.067/41.8 ± 15.9, p = 0.426). Statins did not affect symptom scales and the outcome of autonomic testing.<br /><br />CONCLUSION: Statin use is associated with degeneration of sensory and autonomic fibers. The pattern of abnormalities, e.g., degeneration of proximal while sparing of distal fibers, is consistent with a non-length-dependent process with lesions in the dorsal root and the autonomic ganglia. The statin-associated sensory and autonomic ganglionopathy is mild.




Novak, P., Pimentel, D. A., Sundar, B., Moonis, M., Qin, L., & Novak, V. (2015). Association of statins with sensory and autonomic ganglionopathy. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 7(OCT).

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