Statins May Increase Cataract Risk

We’ve previously reported on research indicating a possible link between the cholesterol-lowering medicines known as statins and Type 2 diabetes. Now a new study in the journal Optometry and Vision Science suggests that statins may also increase the risk of age-related (AR) cataract, or a clouding of the lens of the eye.

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Studies in animals have indicated that long-term statin use at high doses is associated with a risk of AR cataracts. Because Type 2 diabetes is a risk factor for developing AR cataracts, and because many people with Type 2 are prescribed statins, researchers sought to evaluate the impact of statins on AR cataracts.

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They looked at data from roughly 6,400 people seen at the optometry clinic in the University of Waterloo in 2007 and 2008. Among this group, 452 people had Type 2 diabetes. Fifty-six percent of the people with diabetes were taking statins, compared to 16% of the people without diabetes. After controlling for other factors such as sex, smoking, and high blood pressure, the researchers evaluated both statin use and Type 2 diabetes as possible risk factors for AR cataracts.

They found that statistically, the increase in cataract risk from statins was similar to the increase in risk from diabetes: Having Type 2 was associated with an 82% increased risk of AR cataracts, while statin use was associated with a 57% increased risk. On average, people with diabetes taking statins developed AR cataracts 5.6 years earlier than people with diabetes not taking statins.

Further research is necessary to determine the exact nature of any link between statins and AR cataracts. In the meantime, the study authors suggest that the cholesterol-lowering benefits of statins for people with Type 2 diabetes probably outweigh any increased risk of cataracts.

To learn more, read the piece “Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs May Be Linked to Increased Cataract Risk” or see the study’s abstract in Optometry and Vision Science. And for more information on maintaining good eyesight, check out our articles on eyes and vision.

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