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Statins Linked to Raised Risk of Cataracts

But heart benefits of these drugs are significant, expert says

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Sept. 19 (HealthDay News) -- The statin medications that millions of adults take to lower their cholesterol levels may also raise their risk of developing cataracts, a new study suggests.

This is the latest of several studies looking for a link between statins such as Lipitor and Zocor and cataracts, a clouding of the lens of the eye. The results to date have been conflicting and inconclusive, the researchers note.

"Cataracts are a main cause of poor vision and blindness, specifically for the elderly," said lead investigator Dr. Ishak Mansi, of the VA North Texas Health System in Dallas.

"This study cannot identify that statins cause cataracts; rather, it identifies statin use as associated with a higher risk of being diagnosed with cataract," he added.

The report, published Sept. 19 in the online edition of JAMA Ophthalmology, involved almost 14,000 men and women, 6,972 pairs of statin users and nonusers, who were seen by the military health care system from October 2001 to March 2010.

Those taking statins had a 27 percent increased risk of developing cataracts compared with nonusers, the researchers found.

"We tried to slice the data in different directions and look at our findings from different angles and approaches of analyses to ensure its consistency," Mansi said. "Consistently, statin use was associated with higher risk of cataract."

The findings should encourage patients to talk with their doctor about the risks and benefits of these drugs, but they shouldn't discontinue them based on this study, Mansi added.

"These medications have been a main tool in treatment of heart disease and should not be stopped because of a small higher risk of association with other diseases," he said.

The best way to prevent heart disease, however, is to modify your lifestyle, Mansi added.

"Effective medications are expected to have side effects; it is much better to do your best to lower your own risk of cardiovascular disease by stopping smoking and keeping physically active than to take a pill to lower your risk of heart disease," he said.

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