Hot on the heels of research presented at the ARVO 2019 meeting showing that high cholesterol in middle age can elevate risk of age-related macular degeneration, a study in the American Journal of Ophthalmology is showing that lipid-lowering medications can help lower the risk of retinal disease, particularly among patients with diabetes.1,2

The newly published research shows that patients who took lipid-lowering drugs before being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes were significantly less likely to progress to retinopathy or receive any treatment for retinopathy. The Standford-based research team looked at the records of 269,782 patients diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes between 2008 and 2015. Approximately 6% of the patients already taking lipid-lowering drugs eventually were diagnosed with nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy, proliferative diabetic retinopathy or diabetic macular edema. Of those not taking lipid-lowering medications, 6.5% were found to have one of those diabetic eye diseases, a statistically significant difference.

The authors claim this research validates smaller East Asian studies showing an association between statin use and lower levels of retinopathy. It also replicates the East Asian findings in a larger US database, they said. 

1. Kananen F, Strandberg T, Loukovaara S, et al. Early middle-age cholesterol levels and the risk of age-related maculopathy. ARVO 2019. Abstract 1158 - A0172.

2. Vail D, Callaway N, Ludwig C, et al. Lipid-lowering medications are associated with lower risk of retinopathy and ophthalmolic interventions among U.S. patients with diabetes. Am J Ophthalmol. June 10, 2019. [Epub ahead of print].