Niacin flush is a common side effect of taking high doses of supplemental niacin. Supplemental niacin is often prescribed for high cholesterol levels. Niacin flush is not harmful but its symptoms are very uncomfortable and that is why many people stop taking niacin.
The symptoms include red itchy skin which feel like burning and warm. But it is possible to prevent niacin flush, this article explains what is niacin flush and preventive measures.
What is niacin flush?
Niacin flush is a side effect of taking too much of niacin supplement. It is often prescribed to people with high blood cholesterol levels. It is not harmful but the symptoms like skin turning red accompanied by itch and burning feeling. niacin is also known as vitamin B3, which plays an important role in converting food into energy for the body.
The supplemental form of this vitamin, which is used to reduce blood cholesterol levels is known as nicotinic acid. there are two forms of nicotinic acids, one is called immediate release, in which the whole dose is absorbed at once into the blood stream and extended release, where the tablet has a special coating, which slow down the release of the drug into the blood stream.
Niacin flush is very often experienced by people taking immediate release nicotinic acid. It is because it makes the capillaries expand which increase the flow of blood to the surface of the skin by some reports, virtually every person who takes immediate release nicotinic acid experiences niacin flush. Some other drugs like hormonal replacement therapy and anti-depressants can also cause flush.
Symptoms of niacin flush:
The signs and symptoms appear after 15 to 30 minutes after taking the supplements and taper off after an hour. The symptoms of niacin flush include:
Reddening of the skin, it could be red like a sun burn or mildly red, tingling, burning or itching feeling, it can be very uncomfortable even painful, skin that is warm to the touch, just like in case of sun burn.
People experience niacin flush when they start taking niacin supplements but develop tolerance over time. People are often prescribed high doses of niacin to improve blood cholesterol levels and heart health. It supports the heart health by increasing HDL the good cholesterol, lowering triglyceride levels.
But these effects are only observed when niacin is taken in high doses of 14 to 16 mg per day. Niacin is also not prescribed as the first line of defense, because of its side effects other than flush, people who don’t respond to statins are prescribed niacin. Niacin supplements should not be taken without medical supervision.
Is it dangerous?
Niacin flush is usually harmless, but in some cases it can be dangerous. Though rare, in high doses niacin can cause liver damage or stomach cramping, so avoid taking it if you have stomach ulcers or active bleeding.
Pregnant women should avoid it too since it is a category C drug, which means that at high doses it can cause birth defects. Most people discontinue niacin treatment because of the flush, which can be dangerous. Always speak to your physician before stopping the niacin treatment, your doctor may be able to figure out ways to reduce niacin flush or suggest alternate treatment.
Here are some ways to reduce the risk of flush, always speak to your doctor before applying any of these measures:
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