Possible Statin Prevention of AMD Blindness
The most common reason for blindness is age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD comes in two varieties: wet and dry. The dry version is more common but less dangerous. Sometimes (maybe 1 out of 7 cases) dry AMD progresses to wet AMD and blindness. The "macula" that degenerates is part of the retina. Blood vessels grow inside it (this is called angiogenesis) and contributes to the clouding of the retina.
Researchers found that people who took statins tend to be less likely to get wet AMD. People who regularly took aspirin were also less likely to get AMD. Why? Nobody knows for sure, but the anti-inflammatory effects of both statins and aspirin could well be the preventative mechanism. Other possible contributory effects could be that statins stop damage to the retinal cells from cholesterol and that by stopping the blockage of blood vessels in the eye the statins eliminate the need for angiogenesis in the macula.
A University of Wisconsin study found that use of statins, especially simvastatin, reduced the risk of nuclear cataracts. Other types of cataracts were not affected by statin usage. The Rotterdam Study on aging found "anticipated protective effect of statins on AMD could not be substantiated."
You may also hear a connection between statin usage and lower levels of Coenzyme Q (ubiquinone). Coenzyme Q, also called Coenzyme Q10, is a "vitamin-like substance" found in many foods. Several studies have shown a connection between declining Coenzyme Q levels and statin therapy.
Coenzyme Q10 is a substance made naturally by your body. There is some evidence that supplementation with coenzyme Q10 may reduce the risk of serious muscle damage (rhabdomyolysis) - as well as other troubling side effects - from statins. However, no large studies have confirmed this theory, and current guidelines do not recommend routine use of coenzyme Q10 in people taking statins.
Because low Coenzyme Q is suspected to be connected to arteriosclerosis, the fear is that using statins will backfire and actually make health worse, or that statins don't have the full effect they are expected to have. Some advocates (not necessarily licensed doctors or researchers) advocate Coenzyme Q supplements for people on statins. The medical community is not convinced and there is no serious effort to curtail statin use out of a fear of ubiquinone depletion or to promote the use of supplements.
If you experience muscle aching or other troubling symptoms after starting statin medications, consult your doctor for evaluation. Statins are very beneficial medications for many people, and it's important to do everything possible to continue taking them as directed.
Coincidentally, Coenzyme Q is approved for treatment of congestive heart failure in Japan