A common cholesterol drug fights cataracts, too

Feb 10, 2010

Statins, a class of drugs used to lower cholesterol levels, have been successfully fighting heart disease for years. A new study from Tel Aviv University has now found that the same drugs cut the risks of cataracts in men by almost 40%.

"Doctors have known for some time that there is some sort of preventative effect that statins have against cataracts," says Dr. Gabriel Chodick of the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University, who led the study. "It seems that they protect the eye from inflammation and ocular from a process of oxidization. But ours is the first study to show such a strong association in such a large population."

The study covered over 180,000 patients between the years of 1998 and 2007 and was published in the February 2010 issue of the .

From the heart to the head

Dr. Chodick and his colleague Dr. Varda Shalev found that men aged 45 to 54 who took the statins daily to lower their cholesterol levels also lowered their chances of developing cataracts by 38%. For women of about the same age, the risk for cataracts was also cut dramatically, by about 18%.

Dr. Chodick has been studying the health benefits of statins for years. One of his recent studies, featured as part of a Time magazine cover story, showed that statins can reduce a person's chance of dying from all combined diseases and conditions by 40% -- something in the medical community called "all-cause mortality."

"People who persistently take statins have tremendously reduced chances of by disease. We began to think that statins, which are proven to prevent cardiovascular disease, may do other good things in the body as well. We started investigating cataracts to show statins' effects in a more statistical manner," says Dr. Chodick.

A statin a day...

"Statins are not being taken consistently by patients, and only about 10% of those who get these prescriptions actually end up taking them. Once you start, it's important to continue taking them to avoid cardiovascular problems," Dr. Chodick warns. "But now we have even more good reasons to keep taking statins ― like an apple a day. People who begin taking them in their 40s to early 60s can reap a number of benefits, including better protection against cataracts."

A cataract is a type of clouding that develops in the lens of the eye, leading to varying degrees of sight impairment. It typically progresses slowly so that the sufferer may not even be aware of the problem. If left untreated, a cataract can lead to blindness. In the U.S., cataracts affect about 60% of both men and women over the age of 60. About 1.5 million cataract surgeries are performed in the U.S. each year, and visual disabilities associated with cataracts lead to over 8 million physician office visits a year.

"We believe that the regular use of statins for men and women under the age of 75 can significantly protect them against cataracts," Dr. Chodick concludes. Whether people who are not at risk for heart attacks should take them as a preventative alone has not been determined. But before long we may be taking a daily pill along with our daily vitamin tablet, Dr. Chodick believes.

Explore further: Determine patient preferences by means of conjoint analysis

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Statins shown to lower blood pressure

Apr 14, 2008

A large, randomized drug trial has shown for the first time that statin drugs result in a modest, but significant, reduction in blood pressure. These effects may contribute to the reduced risk of stroke and cardiovascular ...

Statin warning for pregnant women

Dec 09, 2008

Pregnant women or those hoping to start or extend a family should avoid using the cholesterol-lowering drugs statins, say scientists.

Recommended for you

Determine patient preferences by means of conjoint analysis

20 hours ago

The Conjoint Analysis (CA) method is in principle suitable to find out which preferences patients have regarding treatment goals. However, to widely use it in health economic evaluations, some (primarily methodological) issues ...

FDA approves hard-to-abuse narcotic painkiller

Jul 25, 2014

(HealthDay)—A new formulation of a powerful narcotic painkiller that discourages potential abusers from snorting or injecting the drug has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Race affects opioid selection for cancer pain

Jul 25, 2014

(HealthDay)—Racial disparities exist in the type of opioid prescribed for cancer pain, according to a study published online July 21 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

FDA approves tough-to-abuse formulation of oxycodone

Jul 25, 2014

(HealthDay)—Targiniq ER (oxycodone hydrochloride and naloxone hydrochloride extended release) has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a long-term, around-the-clock treatment for severe ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

CarolinaScotsman
not rated yet Feb 10, 2010
Don't forget that there is a small but significant number of people who can't take statins because of muscle breakdown. Every drug, even aspirin, has some side effects along with the benefits. One must carefully consider the risks versus benefits for medications. That said, I'm glad I've been taking ststins regularly for ten years now.
deatopmg
1 / 5 (1) Feb 10, 2010
Don't forget that there is a small but significant number of people who can't take statins because of muscle breakdown. Every drug, even aspirin, has some side effects along with the benefits. One must carefully consider the risks versus benefits for medications. That said, I'm glad I've been taking ststins regularly for ten years now.
Said like a true PhRMA ghost writer.

That carefully hidden number is not a small percentage but over 40% of people taking statins experience muscle problems (including heart muscles) and other serious side effects. This is from an early study where several frustrated Drs. involved in the study released all the testing data after the pharma reported, using tortured data, that only a small percentage of the population experienced serious side effects.

The statins probably work to protect against cataracts by reducing CRP, i.e inflammation.