December 8, 2014 — A recent study has added more evidence that cholesterol-lowering statins, such as Lipitor, may increase the risk of cataracts, an eye disease that clouds the lens and causes progressive blurry vision and blindness.
The lens of the eye requires cholesterol to stay healthy and clear. Without enough cholesterol, epithelial cells do not grow normally. Although studies are conflicting, researchers believe cholesterol-lowering statins might interfere with the natural repair process in the lens.
The study, published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, used data on over 162,000 people who developed cataracts.
In a cohort of patients from British Columbia, statins were linked to a 27% increased risk of cataracts requiring surgical intervention. In the cohort of patients from a database in the United States, statins were associated with a 7% increased risk of cataracts.
The researchers did not determine whether certain statins were associated with higher risks, but the data suggests a class effect. However, they caution that the benefits of preventing cardiovascular diseases (CVD) likely outweighs the risk of cataracts:
“The prevention of CVD, stroke, and their associated morbidity and mortality vastly outweighs the risk of cataracts. Even among lower risk patients, for whom the benefit-risk ratio is less dramatic, most patients would still probably prefer having to undergo earlier non-life-threatening cataract surgery over suffering a major vascular event.”
This is not the first time statins have been linked to cataracts. In September 2013, JAMA Ophthalmology published a similar study linking statins with a 9-27% increased risk of cataracts, with longer use of the medications associated with a higher risk. Click here to read more.