Glaucoma

A new study brings the connection between statin use and risk of glaucoma into sharper focus. Investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital have found that using statins for five or more years is associate; with lower risk of primary open-angle glaucoma. Results of the study were publish recently in JAMA Ophthalmology.

Glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness; is a condition where pressure commonly builds up in the eye and affects the optic nerve. However, recent research suggests that statins cholesterol-lowering drugs prescribed to treat and prevent cardiovascular disease; and also lower intraocular pressure and promote blood flow to the optic nerve, which may help lower glaucoma risk.

“Our study suggests possible protective associations; beyond cardiovascular conditions for long-term statin use. Statins may also strengthen neuroprotective mechanisms that prevent degeneration of cells in the optic nerve,” said Jae Hee Kang, ScD, an assistant professor of medicine; in the Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Primary open-angle glaucoma

Kang and her team track 136,782 healthy individuals aged 40 and older; and identify a total of 886 primary open-angle glaucoma cases between 2000 and 2015. However, the researchers used questionnaires to gather self-report data on participants’ serum cholesterol levels and statin use.

While previous observational studies have been inconsistent about the association of primary open-angle its risk with long-term cholesterol and statin use, the results show that use of statins for five years or longer; versus never using statins, is associate with a 21 % lower chance of primary open-angle glaucoma. In addition, every 20 mg/dL increase in total serum cholesterol level is associate; with a 7 % increase in risk of primary open-angle glaucoma. These results suggest that elevate cholesterol levels may heighten its risk.

Investigators point out that a limitation of the study; is that it rely exclusively on self-report statin use and cholesterol levels. In addition, future studies could benefit from sampling more ethnically diverse populations.

Randomized clinical trials

Kang notes that these findings do not mean that individuals with family histories of glaucoma; should use statins or other cholesterol medications for its prevention. Randomized clinical trials will be need to determine if a causal link exists between statin use; and its prevention before physicians can recommend statins for lowering risk of primary open-angle glaucoma. Particularly in elderly populations, statins have potential side effects; including risk of muscle damage and liver or kidney dysfunction.

However, the team’s research provides a jumping-off point for further understanding; the complex biological mechanisms of glaucoma.”As high cholesterol and statin use have been associate; with other neurodegenerative diseases, the interrelationships between cholesterol; glaucoma and these outcomes is also fertile ground for further scientific inquiry,” said Kang.