Study: Statin Drug May be Tied to Cataracts

high cholesterolSubjects who took Zocor, lipitor or similar statins are more likely to get cataracts than non-statin users.1  A number of studies assessing data with different mathematical models find that the risk is increased by 27% to 34%.

Cholesterol can build up in the arteries, clogging them and causing strokes and heart attacks. A popular type of drug calls “statins” reduce cholesterol by blocking a substance that body needs to make cholesterol. Around 25% of Americans over the age of 45 take statin drugs to reduce high cholesterol levels.

This study looked at medical data for almost 60,000 patients enrolled in a military healthcare system from 2003-2005 who were aged 30-85.   They reviewed the data and identified selected 13636 people taking statins and 32,623 non-users. After adjusting for a number of factors they ended up with nearly 7,000 subjects and 7,000 controls.  All subjects and controls had 40 characteristics in common, such as medications, healthcare usage, and other health conditions.

Type of Statins Tested

73.5% patients uses simvastatin, 17.4% used atorvastatin, 7% used pravastatin, 1.7 used rosuvastatin and .24% used fluvastatin or lovastatin.  One third of those patients took the maximum prescription dosages. (80mg simvastatin, pravastatin, atorvastatin) and 40mg of rosuvastatin.  They compiled statin-years based on the dosage and length of time the statin had been taken.

Results

They found that cataracts developed in 36% of statin drug users, whereas the 34% of the controls got cataracts.

The researchers conducted an additional analysis on 6,113 statin users versus 27,400 non-statin users. After adjusting for several variables, they discovered that 34% of the statin drug users got cataracts, while only 10% of the controls were diagnosed with cataracts.

In addition, the study found that cataracts risk went up the longer a patient took statin medications.

Why Do Statins Increase Cataract Risk?

The researchers have several theories as to why statin drugs were linked with the development of cataracts.  Oxidative stress caused by taking statins could be responsible, including their effect on the mitochondria (the energy engines of the cell) or statins may prevent proper development of the tissue making up the lens of the eye.

Other Research

There have been a few small studies that do not find a similar result.  And there’s also a study that finds increased risk of cataract when a statin is combined with an antiobiotic.

Editor’s Note: The study did not account for the severity of the cataracts. Cataracts surgery is extremely common and relatively safe although some patients who have cataract surgery are later vulnerable to retinal tears, and patients with diabetes are at greater risk from complications in cataract surgery. Developing good eating habits and a healthy, active lifestyle can have a significant, positive impact on cholesterol levels in the body.

All medications and changes in medications should be discussed with your doctor, including benefit versus risk. Learn more about lens support on our website.  You may also consider homeopathic remedies for cataracts for immature cataracts.

 

 

  1. J. Leuschen, E.M. Mortensen, et al, Association of Statin Use with Cataracts; A Propensity Score-atched Analysis, JAMA Ophthalmology, November, 2013.