Patients who take statins to limit their risk of cardiovascular disease are also less likely to be diagnosed with glaucoma, the most common form of a leading cause of sight loss, it has been claimed.
According to a US study of more than 300,000 patients carried out by experts at the University of Michigan School of Medicine and directed by Dr Joshua Stein, the risk of glaucoma was reduced by eight percent in patients who took statins continuously for two years, compared with patients who did not.
The study was published in the an issue of Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and based on the growing evidence that statin use may protect the optic nerve and retinal nerve fibres, which are essential to good vision and are damaged by glaucoma.
The healthcare team claims data for a diverse population of Americans aged 60 and older who took statins to control high blood levels of unhealthy fats between 2001 and 2009.
Dr Stein's team assessed patients' risk for open-angle glaucoma (OAG) and, unlike earlier studies, their analysis adjusted for patients who also had diabetes and/or hypertension to prevent distortion of the results.
Several of the study's findings suggest that statin use may be most important before glaucoma is diagnosed, or in the early stages of the disease.
Dr Stein's has now suggested that the findings could lead to new preventive treatments that could especially benefit groups at increased risk, including African-Americans, Hispanics and those with a family history of glaucoma.
"Statins' apparent ability to reduce glaucoma risk may be due to several factors, including improved blood flow to the optic nerve and retinal nerve cells and enhanced outflow of the aqueous fluid, which may reduce intraocular pressure," he explained.
"While more research is needed, we hope our results may contribute to saving the sight of thousands who are predisposed to glaucoma."