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Health & Medicine for Senior Citizens

Statins Take Another Hit, Large Study Says They Increase Cataract Risk

Seems to be little doubt statins are effective protecting the heart but there is a growing list of damaging and dangerous side effects

Sept. 23, 2013 – Statins – the wonder drug that was supposed to save millions of older people from cholesterol clogged arteries and death – took another hit recently from researchers reporting the drug increases the risk of cataracts, a main cause of poor vision and blindness in senior citizens.


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Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye. They can affect quality of life, and with a growing elderly population the incidence of cataracts is likely to increase. Therefore, understanding the modifiable risk factors for the condition needs to be a public health priority, the study authors explain in JAMA Ophthalmology, a JAMA Network publication, to explain the study background.

Jessica Leuschen, M.D., of the San Antonio Military Medical Center, Texas, and colleagues analyzed data from a military health care system from October 2001 to March 2010. Their analysis matched 6,972 pairs of statin users and nonusers.

In the researchers’ primary analysis, the risk for cataract was higher among statin users compared with nonusers, a finding that held up when accounting for other factors that could explain the result (odds ratio, 1.27).

The authors note that prior studies of the association between statins and cataracts have yielded different results, with some suggesting an increased risk and others finding no, or inconsistent, associations.

 “In conclusion, this study found statin use to be associated with an increased risk for cataract,” the researches say.

The best known statin drugs are atorvastatin (Lipitor), simvastatin (Zocor), lovastatin (Mevacor), pravastatin (Pravachol), rosuvastatin (Crestor). There are others and also lower cost generics are available.

The Mayo Clinic, in its online report on high cholesterol notes that there are known side effects of statin drugs.The most common and least dangerous of the side effects are muscle and joint pain, nausea, diarrhea and constipation. Severe muscle pain can develop into several more serious health problems. Among the other more serious risk are liver damage, type II diabetes, memory loss and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.


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