The use of cholesterol lowering drugs known as statins, such as Zocor and Lipitor, may lead to the formation of cataracts, according to a new study. According to Dr. Ishak Mansi, the study’s senior author from UT Southwestern Medical Center and the Dallas VA Medical Center in Texas, and colleagues, discovered that patients taking statins were approximately 27 percent more likely to develop cataracts than those who did not take statins.
It is reported that approximately 25 percent of United States adults over the age of 44 take statins. Individuals who have diabetes or a history of cardiovascular issues are likely candidates.
Previous research has produced results that appear contradictory. Some studies link statins and cataracts, while others indicate a lowered risk of developing cataracts. The current study analyzed data from medical records of patients ranging from 30 to 85 years old who had been enrolled in a healthcare system in San Antonio, TX, that received care from 2003 and 2005. Mansi and colleagues studied information from 7,000 patients on statins for at least 3 months and approximately 7,000 patients who were not on statins. Those not on statins shared approximately 40 other characteristics, including other health issues, medications and healthcare use. The researchers report that approximately 36 percent of the patients using statins were diagnosed with cataracts as compared to approximately 34 percent not taking statins.
A second analysis was performed and this time a little over 6,000 statin users were compared to approximately 27,000 nonstatin users. The results were adjusted for age, sex, weight, medications, healthcare use, eye conditions, cigarette, alcohol, and drug use. The researchers found that approximately 34 percent of statin users were diagnosed with cataracts versus approximately 10 percent in the nonstatin group. Additionally, the researchers reported that the potential of developing cataracts increased with the length of time statins were taken.
Mansi and his team are uncertain how statins are involved with the increased risk of developing cataracts. However, they suspect that since statins lower cholesterol levels, it is known that high levels of cholesterol are required to maintain a clear lens. Statins may be interfering with cells that are involved with that process.
According to Dr. Jack Cioffi, head of ophthalmology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York and not involved in the study, the current study was correctly performed, but has limitations. He notes that information was collected from billing data as opposed to medical records, which means information about how severe the cataracts were is missing. Cioffi adds further that it is best not to overstate the significance of the study, as there are important reasons that certain individuals take statins, so the risk of developing a mild increase in risk of cataracts is less important. According to the National Institutes of Health, procedures to remove cataracts are commonplace and safe to perform, so the side effects of taking statins can easily be remedied if necessary.
Mansi suggests that patients discuss the benefits and risks of taking statins with their healthcare providers. He also hopes that patients will improve their cholesterol levels by making changes in their life styles, such as quitting smoking, eating healthy foods, and exercising.
Other Benefits of Statins
Cholesterol lowering drugs such as statins have been demonstrated to be useful in improving symptoms in Rett Syndrome as well. Using a mouse model, a team of researchers at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) have discovered a mutation in a gene involved with cholesterol synthesis. The researchers found that administration of a statin drug had the ability to lengthen lifespan and improve some symptoms in their mouse model.
The abnormal gene codes for a defective protein MECP2 which tends to affect young female infants between the ages of 6 to 18 months. Growth development begins to slow and movements become difficult and Autism-like symptoms set in. For more information on the molecular pathway visit http://bionews-tx.com/news/2013/07/29/statins-improve-symptoms-in-rett-syndrome-mouse-model/
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