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Eye Health Center

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Sight-Saving Statins?

Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs May Prevent Macular Degeneration
WebMD Health News

Aug. 18, 2003 -- Might statins save your sight? New evidence suggests that the cholesterol-lowering drugs prevent macular degeneration.

Age-related macular degeneration is a major reason elderly people lose much of their sight. It's caused by a breakdown of light-sensitive cells right in the center of the retina. It's like a big hole in the middle of a movie screen.

Some researchers suspect that macular degeneration happens for the same reason as heart disease: cholesterol. It's possible that cholesterol buildup in the eye helps separate light-sensitive cells from their nourishing support cells.

Gerald McGwin Jr., MD, of the University of Alabama in Birmingham, and colleagues decided to test this theory. They compared 550 people with age-related macular degeneration with 5,500 similar patients without macular degeneration.

People who got macular degeneration were 70% less likely to have taken statins. Other cholesterol-lowering drugs didn't seem to affect the condition. The findings appear in the September issue of the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

This study doesn't prove that statins prevent macular degeneration. But it's a strong hint that researchers should take a hard look in this direction.

"The results of this study suggest that subjects with age-related macular degeneration were significantly less likely to have filled a statin prescription," McGwin and colleagues write. "Future clinical research initiatives should consider a randomized clinical trial to evaluate the effectiveness of statins in lowering the risk and/or rate of progression of age-related macular degeneration."

SOURCE: British Journal of Ophthalmology, September 2003.

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