National study finds reduced glaucoma risk in patients who take statins

October 1, 2012

People who take statins to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease are less likely to be diagnosed with the most common form of glaucoma, according to a nationwide study of more than 300,000 patients. A University of Michigan School of Medicine research team, directed by Joshua Stein, MD, MS, found that the risk for glaucoma was reduced by eight percent in patients who took statins continuously for two years, compared with patients who did not take statins. The study, the largest to date on the topic, is published in the October issue of Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Dr. Stein's study was sparked by growing evidence that statin use may protect the optic nerve and retinal , structures that are essential to good vision and are damaged by . His team used healthcare claims data for a diverse population of Americans aged 60 and older who took statins to control high blood levels of unhealthy fats, a condition known as hyperlipidemia, between 2001 and 2009, The researchers assessed patients' risk for open-angle glaucoma (OAG). Unlike earlier studies, their analysis adjusted for patients who also had diabetes and/or hypertension to prevent distortion of the results.

Several of the study's findings suggest that statin use may be most important before glaucoma is diagnosed, or in the early stages of the disease. Dr. Stein's research may lead to new preventive treatments that could especially benefit groups at increased risk, including African-Americans, Hispanics and those with a family history of glaucoma.

Glaucoma affects more than 2.7 million Americans age 40 and older . If untreated, glaucoma causes vision loss or blindness by damaging the eye's optic nerve. The optic nerve sends signals from the retina—a layer of light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye—to the brain, where these signals are interpreted as the images we see. Only about half of the people who have glaucoma know it, since symptoms are rarely noticed in the early stages and is very gradual in most cases.

"Statins' apparent ability to reduce glaucoma risk may be due to several factors, including improved blood flow to the 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."

Dr. Stein cautioned that the study results apply only to patients with , and that further study is needed to determine whether statins also protect patients who don't have this diagnosis or have other characteristics that differ from the study population.

Explore further: Study focuses on relationship between glaucoma and diabetes, hypertension

Related Stories

Study focuses on relationship between glaucoma and diabetes, hypertension

August 17, 2011
Many Americans suffer from diabetes and hypertension and, according to a study by researchers at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center, these individuals may have an increased risk of developing open-angle glaucoma ...

The cost of glaucoma care: Small group of patients accounts for large part of costs

September 18, 2012
A small subset of patients with open-angle glaucoma (OAG) account for a large proportion of all glaucoma-related charges in the United States, according to new data published by researchers at the University of Michigan Kellogg ...

Study suggests glaucoma screenings are happening too late

September 29, 2011
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. Although it can be treated, new research shows Canadians may not be doing enough to protect themselves. According to a new study by Lawson Health Research Institute's ...

Recommended for you

Researchers identify key compounds to resolve abnormal vascular growth in AMD

August 21, 2017
A compound of specific bioactive products from a major family of enzymes reduced the severity of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in a preclinical model, according to a new study led by Massachusetts Eye and Ear researchers. ...

World's blind population to soar: study

August 3, 2017
The world's blind will increase threefold from about 36 million today to 115 million in 2050 as populations expand and individuals grow ever older, researchers said Thursday.

Simulations signal early success for fractal-based retinal implants

July 27, 2017
Computer simulations of electrical charges sent to retinal implants based on fractal geometry have University of Oregon researchers moving forward with their eyes focused on biological testing.

Scientists regenerate retinal cells in mice

July 26, 2017
Scientists have successfully regenerated cells in the retina of adult mice at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.

Genome editing with CRISPR-Cas9 prevents angiogenesis of the retina

July 24, 2017
A research team from the Schepens Eye Research Institute of Massachusetts Eye and Ear has successfully prevented mice from developing angiogenesis of the retina—the sensory tissue at the back of the eye—using gene-editing ...

Too little vitamin D may hinder recovery of injured corneas

July 24, 2017
Injury or disease in combination with too little vitamin D can be bad for the window to your eyes.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.