Statin Use Is Associated with Excess Risk for Cataracts

Summary and Comment |
September 24, 2013

Statin Use Is Associated with Excess Risk for Cataracts

  1. Thomas L. Schwenk, MD

One more reason to carefully weigh the risks and benefits of statins, especially for primary prevention

  1. Thomas L. Schwenk, MD

Observational studies of risk for cataracts with statin use have yielded conflicting results. Using data collected between 2003 and 2010 in the clinical and administrative database of a military healthcare system in Texas, researchers conducted a retrospective cohort analysis that involved 6972 pairs of statin users and nonusers. Statin users were defined as patients who received at least 90-day supplies of statin medications at baseline (mean duration of statin use, ≈5 years). Participant pairs were matched for 44 clinical, medication, and healthcare variables associated with either likelihood of receiving a statin or risk for developing cataracts.

During up to 6 years of follow-up, risk for developing cataracts was 35.5% among statin users and 33.5% among nonusers — a significant difference. An increased risk associated with statin use also was noted in a secondary analysis restricted to patients with few comorbidities.


The clinical trial needed to confirm these results is unlikely to be done. The study design and analyses here are sufficiently robust to support caution in prescribing statins to patients who might benefit only marginally, particularly patients at low risk for cardiovascular disease.

Editor Disclosures at Time of Publication

  • Disclosures for Thomas L. Schwenk, MD at time of publication Editorial boards UpToDate


Reader Comments (5)

POORIA HAMEDANI Fellow-In-Training, Endocrinology, Alzahra hospital.department of endocrinology

I think that statins are very important and must carefully read this article.

Carol Vassar, MD Physician, Internal Medicine, private practice

While the 2% increase in cataracts by itself may not be enough to hold back giving statins, its significance goes beyond cataracts to raising the question of ADR's as yet not identified.

Patrick McBride Physician, Cardiology, University of Wisconsin

A literature search makes it clear that there is no evidence that this is the case - nearly all other studies do not support this conclusion. Most other studies of statins and cataracts in fact show a marked reduction in the risk of cataracts. Note that there is not an excess of risk noted in RCTs.

Mohan Chilukuri Physician, Family Medicine/General Practice, Durham, NC

Since this is a retrospective study, how do we know whether those who were in the statin group had this mildly higher risk of cataracts from the statin itself or possibly due to their tendency to have high lipid levels to start with.

William Snoddy, M.D. Physician, Family Medicine/General Practice

I am not sure many of us should be influenced to prescribe fewer statins by this study. Does a 2% increase in cataracts make one gun-shy about a treatment that clearly reduces cardiovascular events in patients at risk? Many patients tolerate cataracts well for many years, and ultimately may only need a brief outpatient procedure as treatment. The first cardiovascular event could be catastrophic.

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