Statins 'linked to cataracts'

Millions of people who take statins face a greater risk of developing cataracts, a study has found.

Statins may increase the risk of cataracts (James King-Holmes/SPL)
Statins may increase the risk of cataracts (James King-Holmes/SPL)

Scientists believe the drugs may interfere with natural cell development in the lens of the eye, which requires cholesterol to remain transparent.

The researchers said the findings stress the importance of balancing the benefits and risks of statin use, particularly when used as a preventive treatment.

The study was published in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology.

Using data from a US military health care system, researchers matched 6,972 pairs of statin users and non-users on the basis of their risk of developing the eye condition.

This trial design aimed to account for the effects of 44 risk factors, including diabetes, vascular disease and smoking.

Analysis showed the risk of cataracts was 9% higher in those who had taken statins for at least three months than non-users. In healthy patients without comorbidities, the risk was 27% greater in patients on statins.

The researchers said past studies have produced conflicting results and their findings would need to be confirmed in further trials.

However, they added: 'Weighing the benefit-risk ratio of statin use, specifically for primary prevention, should be carefully considered.'

At least 300,000 cataract operations are performed each year in the NHS. In 2012, a study by Imperial College London found almost half of PCTs had unfairly restricted access to surgery for the eye condition.

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