Statins for Retinopathy?

We’ve known for years that a high level of lipids (cholesterol, fatty acids and triglycerides) in the bloodstream poses a risk to heart health. Fortunately, we have medications that can reduce lipids: statins lower cholesterol and fibrates lower fatty acids and triglycerides. Now a recent report from Japan indicates that the use of fibrates and statins can reduce the incidence of diabetic retinopathy, or damage to blood vessels in the retina, in people with Type 2 diabetes.

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Published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, the study also reports that fibrates and statins can also lower the need for treatment in patients who already have diabetic retinopathy. According to Ryo Kawasaki, MD, of Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine, “Our study is suggesting that lipid-lowering medication is beneficial for both the incidence and progression of diabetic retinopathy.”

The researchers collected data on nearly 85,000 patients with Type 2 diabetes. These patients were divided into two groups — those who didn’t have diabetic retinopathy and those who developed it during the baseline period. About 20 percent of the participants were given standard statins and about 80 percent were prescribed “strong” statins. Also, about half were given benzafibrate and half received fenofibrate (both are lipid-lowering agents).

During the three-year follow up period, about 7,000 participants developed diabetic retinopathy. The results of the study showed that with the use of lipid-lowering drugs, the condition was reduced by about one-fourth. Among diabetes patients who already had diabetic retinopathy, the need for treatment was reduced by 35 percent. Statins and fibrates were found to be about equally effective. The researchers said that just how these drugs affect diabetic retinpthy is “not fully understood” but added that their study “further expanded the possibility that lipid-lowering medication can reduce the need for DR-related treatment in a relatively short duration of diabetes.”

Want to learn more about diabetes and eye health? Read “Keeping Your Eyes Healthy,” “Foods for Healthy Eyes” and “Diabetes and Your Eyes — More Than Retinopathy.”

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