Seeing Better on Cholesterol Meds

Statin use lowers glaucoma risk

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Over 2.7 million people over 40 years old in the U.S. are affected by glaucoma. New research findings may offer a way those predisposed to the disease can reduce their risk. 

A study conducted at the University of Michigan found that patients who take statins to reduce their risk for heart disease are less likely to contract open-angle glaucoma (OAG), the most common form of the disease.

"Statins may reduce glaucoma risk."

Joshua D. Stein, MD, MS, of the University of Michigan Medical School Department of Ophthalmology, and colleagues aimed to determine if patients who take statins are at a reduced risk for developing glaucoma compared to patients who do not take statins.

The nationwide study involved more than 316,182 patients, aged 60 or older, who take statins to control high blood cholesterol levels, a condition called hyperlipidemia.

The study found that glaucoma risk was reduced by 8 percent in patients who took statins continuously for two years.

The risk for developing OAG from no prior OAG diagnosis was reduced in patients taking prescribed statins. These patients also experienced a reduced risk of a suspected glaucoma diagnosis developing into OAG.

The study’s findings suggest that statin use may be most effective before glaucoma diagnosis or in the earliest stages of the disease.

Glaucoma damages the nerves that send sensory information from the eyes to the brain, and statin use may protect these structures to maintain good vision.

"Statins' apparent ability to reduce glaucoma risk may be due to several factors, including improved blood flow to the optic nerve and retinal nerve cells and enhanced outflow of the aqueous fluid, which may reduce intraocular pressure," said Dr. Stein.

"While more research is needed, we hope our results may contribute to saving the sight of thousands who are predisposed to glaucoma."

The study’s results have only been applied to patients taking statins for hyperlipidemia, and further research is necessary to determine if statins also protect patients without this diagnosis. "Traditionally, cholesterol lowering has been shown to have important cardiovascular benefits but the association with prevention of other diseases, such as glaucoma, has been less clear," said Dr. Christopher Quinn, OD. "This large study, well-performed study will undoubtedly stimulate other studies seeking to confirm the results obtained."

This study was published online on June 21 in Ophthalmology. The research was funded by the National Eye Institute, American Glaucoma Society, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation and Research to Prevent Blindness.

The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 5, 2012
Last Updated:
January 9, 2013