The use of Statin drugs to lower cholesterol is strongly linked to developing cataracts

August 14, 2012

The lens of the eye is like the lens of a camera; if the lens of a camera is dirty you don’t get a clear picture. Like the lens of a camera if the lens of the eye is cloudy you don’t see clearly.

A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye and it obscures vision. Most cataracts are related to aging. Cataracts are very common in older people. According to the National Eye Institute by age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery.

In a new study doctors from the University of Waterloo in Ontario Canada examined data on nearly 6,400 patients seen in their eye clinic over the years 2007 to 2008. Of these, 452 patients had type 2 diabetes.

Both diabetes and statin use were evaluated for a relationship to cataracts taking into account other factors such as high blood pressure and smoking. Both diabetes and statin sue were tied into a jump in an increased rate of people developing cataracts. Diabetes was tied to an 82 percent increased risk and statin use was tied to a 57 percent increase. Because so many people take statins the number of cataracts associated with statin use was similar to the number associated with diabetes. Diabetics who took statins of course developed cataracts faster at an older age than non-diabetic older people who did not take statins.       

Interestingly the occurrence of a common cataract seen in diabetics known as a posterior subcapsular cataract seemed to be more due to using statins than having the disease.  The study is published in the August issue of Optometry and Vision Sciences, official journal of the American Academy of Optometry.