Question & Answer

Can cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins) have an effect on an eye condition called age-related macular degeneration?

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The Evidence

  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a condition that affects the middle part of your field of vision. It usually begins when people are in their 50s and 60s.
  • According to the World Health Organization, AMD is a leading cause of vision problems and blindness.
  • Statins are a type of drug that help lower cholesterol.
  • It has been suggested that taking statins can cause AMD, or make it worse, but it has also been suggested that statins can slow down or prevent the development of AMD.
  • We found four high-quality systematic reviews about AMD and statins.
  • The first review looked at people who already had AMD and people who didn’t. It reported that there was no difference in the number of new cases or the worsening of AMD in people who took statins compared with people who did not take them. However, most of the studies they looked at were observational  Because of this, we can’t be sure if the people taking statins were similar to those not taking statins. This makes it difficult to be sure about the accuracy of the results.
  • The second review reported that statins didn’t increase or decrease the risk of developing AMD but it too was based on observational studies, so we can’t be sure.
  • The third review included three randomised studies, which are better at detecting the effects of drugs. This review found some evidence that statins could help prevent AMD and a related condition that affects part of the eye called the retina, but the authors recommended that randomised controlled trials with larger groups of people are needed to provide more solid evidence.
  • The fourth review looked at people who already had AMD and also included randomised studies. This review reported that there isn’t enough information to know whether statins prevent or delay AMD.

Guidelines and recommendations

  • We did not find any recommendations or guidelines on statins and AMD.

Things to Remember

  • Look out for treatment comparisons where the comparison groups are not alike.
  • Look out for studies that are based on small studies with few people.
  • Just because something is associated with people getting better or worse, doesn’t mean the treatment made them better or worse.


  • Lead Researcher: Dr. Paula Byrne, Senior post-doctoral researcher, iHealthFacts, Evidence Synthesis Ireland and Cochrane Ireland, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, University of Galway.
  • Reviewed by: Prof Declan Devane, Professor of Health Research Methodology, Deputy Dean, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, University of Galway,
  • Scientific Director, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network Director, Evidence Synthesis Ireland. Director, Cochrane Ireland
  • Topic advisor: Dr. Frank Moriarty, Senior Lecturer in Pharmacy at the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and visiting research fellow at The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA).
  • Public and Patient advisor: Anne Daly, PPI Ignite, University of Galway.
  • Journalist Advisor: Dr. Claire O’Connell, PhD in cell biology, Masters in Science Communication. Contributor to The Irish Times, writing about health, science and innovation.

Conflict of Interest Statement: The authors have no financial or other conflicts of interest for this health claim summary.