17th of June 2019

Do Statins Cut Glaucoma Risk?

Statins really are wonder drugs for the modern age. They lower blood levels of cholesterol and other bad fats, reducing the chance of strokes, heart attacks and other problems of the vascular system. However, statins are not without their potential side effects. Statins  may cause headaches, nausea, or muscle aches and pains. It’s only very rarely that statins may cause severe muscle or liver damage. 

Statins have other advantages for health. They have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties that may help a wide range of health issues. For eye health, statins may have a role in reducing the burden of a number of eye diseases. Statins may be able to treat dry eye syndrome and ocular inflammation, although the link is not yet proven.

For glaucoma, there is some conflicting evidence about the beneficial role of statins. However, new research has been able to shed some light on the matter. A large US study1 involving > 100,000 individuals found that high cholesterol levels were associated with an increased risk of glaucoma, and use of statins for 5 or more years was associated with a lower risk of glaucoma. 

Whether the study shows this link is causal, or whether the relationship between statins, cholesterol and glaucoma is associative (i.e. related to a deeper, unknown underlying cause) remains uncertain. At this stage we do not recommend routine use of statins to treat glaucoma; these medicines should be used, in consultation with your doctor, based on cholesterol levels and risk of a major vascular event such as a heart attack or stroke. 

Keep in mind there are healthier and more natural ways to treat glaucoma. Being fit and active, and eating the right sort of foods are good for glaucoma, cholesterol levels, and general wellbeing.

 1. Association of Statin Use and High Serum Cholesterol Levels With Risk of Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma. Kang JH, Boumenna T, Stein JD, Khawaja A, Rosner BA, Wiggs JL, Pasquale LR. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2019 May 2

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