Taking Statins for Your Heart? Your Risk for Glaucoma May Also Be Lower

People who take statins to reduce their risk of heart disease are less likely to be diagnosed with the most common form of glaucoma, says a new nationwide U.S. study. Researchers found that the risk for open-angle glaucoma was reduced by eight percent in patients who took statins continuously for two years, compared with patients who didn't take this medication.

The study also found that taking statins may be most protective for patients before glaucoma is diagnosed, or in its early stages. This finding could lead to preventive treatments that could especially benefit groups at increased risk for glaucoma, 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, it causes vision loss or blindness by damaging the eye's optic nerve. The optic nerve relays 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 vision loss is very gradual in most cases.

All study participants were aged 60 or older and taking statins to control high blood levels of unhealthy fats, a condition known as hyperlipidemia or high cholesterol. Unlike earlier studies, this one adjusted for whether patients also had diabetes and/or hypertension, conditions that could have impacted the results.

Further study is needed before researchers will know whether statins can also protect people who don't have high cholesterol.

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