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Cholesterol Drugs May Fight Glaucoma

Long-Term Use of Statins May Protect Eyes
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June 14, 2004 -- Long-term use of cholesterol-lowering drugs may not only protect your heart, it may also safeguard your eyesight and reduce the risk of glaucoma.

New research suggests that men who used cholesterol-lowering drugs, such as statins, for two years or more were less likely to develop the most common type of glaucoma, known as open-angle glaucoma.

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that cause gradual loss of side vision and eventually complete and irreversible loss of sight if untreated. Everyone over age 60 has an increased risk for glaucoma. Other groups at increased risk include blacks over age 40 and people with a family history of the disease.

Researchers say the findings raise "the intriguing possibility" that long-term use of statins may reduce the risk of glaucoma, particularly among people with heart disease and high cholesterol. But further study is needed to determine if use of these drugs can provide additional benefits in the treatment of glaucoma.

Statins May Help Preserve Eyesight

In the study, published in the June issue of The Archives of Ophthalmology, researchers looked at the medical records of 667 men over the age of 50 who were diagnosed with glaucoma between 1997 and 2001 and compared them with more than 6,000 similar men who did not have glaucoma.

The study showed that men who had used statins for two or more years were 40% less likely to develop glaucoma than the others. Among men with heart disease or high cholesterol, the risk of glaucoma was reduced by 37% with long-term use of statins.

Use of other, non-statin cholesterol-lowering drugs was also associated with a 41% lower incidence of glaucoma.

Researchers say previous studies have shown that use of statins can also lower the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness among people over 65.

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