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 nerve fibers, structures that are essential to good vision and are damaged by glaucoma. 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.