July 18, 2019
1 min read

Higher cholesterol levels associated with greater risk for primary open-angle glaucoma

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Patients with higher levels of cholesterol are more at risk for primary open-angle glaucoma, while those who take statins to control cholesterol levels are at less risk, according to a study.

“Our results, using longitudinal data from 136,782 participants, showed that use of statins for 5 years or longer vs. never using statins was associated with a 21% lower chance of primary open-angle glaucoma,” study co-author Jae Hee Kang, ScD, told Healio.com/OSN.

The researchers used biennial data from patients 40 years or older who did not have glaucoma and reported eye examinations. Data were culled from three large population-based studies: Nurses’ Health Study, Nurses’ Health Study 2 and Health Professionals Follow-up Study.

Over 15 years of follow-up assessments of cholesterol levels and statin use, 886 incident cases of POAG were identified. Any history of elevated cholesterol, defined as a self-report of a physician’s diagnosis of high cholesterol or ever reporting a total serum cholesterol of 240 mg/dL or more, was associated with a higher risk for POAG.

Every 20 mg/dL increase in total serum cholesterol level was associated with a 7% increase in risk for POAG (P = .004), with an even greater risk observed in patients with serum cholesterol levels of 250 mg/dL or more and a 6% risk in patients who never used cholesterol-lowering drugs (P = .04).

However, use of statins decreased POAG risk by 15%. Patients who used statins for 5 years or more compared with those who never used statins experienced 21% less risk for POAG (P = .02 for linear trend). Each year of statin use was associated with a 3% decrease of POAG risk.

“These findings do not mean that individuals with a family history of glaucoma should use statins or other cholesterol medications for glaucoma prevention. Randomized clinical trials will be needed to determine if a causal link exists between statin use and glaucoma prevention, especially given the potential side effects of statin use,” Kang said. – by Robert Linnehan

Disclosures: Kang reports receiving grants from the National Institutes of Health during the conduct of the study. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.