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What Do I Need to Know About Nicotinic Acid to Lower Cholesterol?

Precautions and Possible Side Effects of Nicotinic Acid

Precautions to take when you are on nicotinic acid:
  • Keep follow-up appointments with your doctor. When you take any form of niacin, your doctor must monitor you for liver problems.

  • Tell your doctor about all your medical problems. If you have certain health conditions, you may not be able to take nicotinic acid safely. Or you may need close monitoring while taking it. Talk with your doctor about the potential effects of nicotinic acid if you have any of the following conditions:

    • frequent chest pain, called angina
    • liver disease
    • gout or high uric acid levels
    • active stomach ulcers
    • diabetes
  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Pregnant women should not take niacin unless told to by their doctors.

  • If you are breast-feeding, do not take niacin at all.
Taking these actions will help ensure that you take your nicotinic acid safely.

Possible Side Effects. The most noticeable side effect with nicotinic acid is flushed skin. This usually decreases after your body gets used to the medicine.

If you have experienced flushing, take these actions to help avoid it.

  • Take the medicine with food or milk.
  • Do not take it with hot liquids, such as soups or coffee. Also don't take it with alcohol.
  • Take a regular-release aspirin 30 to 60 minutes before taking nicotinic acid.
  • Ask your doctor whether you can start with a lower dose and work up to your target dose gradually over several weeks.
  • Ask your doctor whether you can take slow-release, long-acting nicotinic acid. This type causes less flushing for some people.

Other Possible Side Effects. Some people who take nicotinic acid develop dry skin. Gastrointestinal upset is also possible, including:

  • diarrhea
  • gas
  • indigestion
  • nausea
  • stomach ulcer
  • vomiting
Taking nicotinic acid with food can help to decrease gastrointestinal side effects.

More Serious Side Effects. Talk with your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • dizziness
  • increase in blood glucose
  • irregular heartbeat
  • malaise
  • vision problems
  • yellowing eyes or skin, which could be a result of severe liver damage
If your doctor prescribes high doses, you have an increased risk of more serious side effects. These include liver toxicity, gout, and high blood glucose.