What causes eye pain? Are statins harmful?


Q. On a flight, as we landed at Gatwick, I felt a sharp pain above one eye as if someone had put a needle through my eyebrow. When I touched the painful area, the skin was very sensitive and my eye got bloodshot. It has happened once before. What might cause it?

A. This is not something I have come across before. A sharp pain followed by a hypersensitivity suggests that something acutely disturbed the sensory nerves that supply your forehead. The nerve that supplies sensation to the skin above the eye is known as the trigeminal nerve. It is possible that the change in cabin pressure as the aeroplane descended somehow disturbed the nerve. Another possibility is that a sudden neck movement as the plane landed tweaked a nerve. Are there any neurologists out there who can explain this symptom?


Q. I have just been prescribed a statin drug to reduce my cholesterol. The list of side effects on the package seems to mention nearly all the symptoms that humans can suffer from. How many people do get side effects?

A. The great majority of people who take statins (simvastatin, pravastatin, atorvastatin, and others) experience no side effects at all. There is one serious side effect to look out for - muscle pain, tenderness or weakness. In my experience it is very rare, but it is important because it can be a sign of serious muscle damage. A few people will get stomach upsets, and a few will get rashes. The only thing to look out for is muscle problems. If these occur, stop the tablets and see your doctor pretty smartly.


Q. I usually begin to get hay fever about four weeks before everyone else. Am I unusually sensitive?

A. The earliest symptoms of hay fever are caused by allergies to tree pollens. Later in the year, grass pollens are responsible for most hay fever symptoms. Only about 25 per cent of hay fever sufferers are sensitive to tree pollens. Grass pollens affect about 90 per cent of people who get symptoms. A combination of nasal sprays, eye drops and antihistamine tablets usually manage to control symptoms pretty effectively. Find the cheapest version of antihistamine tablets available. Last year I discovered that the same substance (loratadine) was on sale for anything from 39p to £2.65 for seven tablets.

Readers write

Solutions for migraines, from AL

I suffered from migraine until I discovered that eggs, chocolate and pork triggered it. Oranges are another common trigger. Your correspondent should keep a food diary for her daughter to see what the common factors are. Learning what to avoid has, with rare exceptions, solved my problem.

Please send your questions and suggestions to A Question of Health, 'The Independent', Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; fax 020-7005 2182 or e-mail to health@independent.co.uk. Dr Kavalier regrets that he is unable to respond personally to questions.