Statins May Cut Glaucoma Risk

More good news about cholesterol-lowering statin drugs: They may reduce the risk for glaucoma.

Previous studies of the link between statin use and glaucoma have produced conflicting results. Now a large study, published in JAMA Ophthalmology, offers long-term data.

Researchers followed 136,782 health care workers for up to 15 years, tracking statin use and the incidence of glaucoma, the fluid buildup in the eyeball that damages the optic nerve and can lead to blindness.

At regular intervals from 1988 to 2012, participants reported their most recent total serum cholesterol and their current use of any cholesterol-lowering drugs. Over 15 years, there were 886 cases of open-angle glaucoma, the most common type. Every 20-point increase in total cholesterol was associated with a 7 percent increased risk of glaucoma.

But using statins had a beneficial effect. After adjusting for other factors, five or more years of statin use led to a 21 percent reduction in the risk.

Jae H. Kang, an assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, suggested that statins reduce pressure in the eye, help maintain good blood flow and may help protect the optic nerve.

Still, she said, glaucoma treatment or prevention is not by itself a reason to start statins. “Our study doesn’t address whether statins stop the progress of the disease,” she said. “That would require a clinical trial.”

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