Studies have proven that statins, a group of medications that block the production of LDL cholesterol and promote healthy blood vessel lining, can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in people with type 2 diabetes.

However, it was unclear if statin intake affected the development of microvascular (smallest blood vessels) complications like eye, nerve, and kidney disease in people with diabetes. Statins are commonly believed to increase blood sugar levels and thus exacerbate diabetes, but do they do the same for diabetes complications like diabetic retinopathy, neuropathy, and foot gangrene?

The study

A study conducted in Denmark identified all Danish diabetic patients 40 or older who were diagnosed between the years of 1996 and 2009. The researchers randomly selected 15,679 patients who had used statins regularly before their diabetes diagnosis and 47,307 patients who had not used statins prior to being diagnosed.

The patients were observed for about 3 years and the researchers found that patients who took statins prior to diagnosis were 34 percent less likely to have diabetic neuropathy, 40 percent less likely to have developed retinopathy, and 12 percent less likely to have foot gangrene than those who hadn’t taken statins. The risk of diabetic nephropathy, or progressive kidney disease, was the same for people who took statins and people who didn’t.

Based on these findings, the researchers saw no association between statin use and increased risk of diabetic microvascular complications. From the disparity in the numbers, statins may even help prevent these complications. Doctors Sune Nielsen and Borge Nordestgaard, the primary authors of the study, said regarding this possible result, “Whether statins are protective against some forms of microvascular disease—a possibility raised by these data—will need to be addressed in other studies similar to ours.”

Even though statins may not lead to problems with your eyes, kidneys, or nerves, it is widely claimed that statins can increase blood sugar and therefore type 2 diabetes risk. This risk is small, though, and experts say that the benefits of statins outweigh the side effects. The American Heart Association reported, “There are a wealth of clinical data showing that patients with diabetes mellitus benefit greatly from statin therapy to prevent cardiac events.”

To learn more about diabetes medications:

Know Your Diabetes Medications
Diabetes Medications: Managing Side Effects
Remember to Take Your Diabetes Medication

Photo Source: BBC News