The use of statins by persons with type 2 diabetes has been associated with lower risks of retinopathy, neuropathy, and nephropathy, in research published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

The investigators were surprised by the result, expecting the opposite. “Since high levels of blood glucose, the hallmark of diabetes, are linked with microvascular disease, and since statins are suspected of raising glucose levels, we tested the hypothesis that individuals taking a statin before a diagnosis of diabetes might be at increased risk of developing microvascular complications,” explained study author Børge G. Nordestgaard, MD, in a press release from The Lancet. “Surprisingly, the results showed that statins decreased rather than increased risk of these complications.”

The study involved 60,000 Danish citizens with diabetes.  All participants were aged 40 years or older and either had used statins regularly before their diabetes diagnosis (15,679 patients) or had not (47,037 patients).

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Compared with patients who had not taken statins, those who had were less likely to develop diabetic neuropathy by 34%, diabetic retinopathy by 40%, and gangrene by 12%. The risk of diabetic nephropathy was similar between the groups.

Another study on microvascular complications in patients with diabetes indicated that younger people with diabetes are at greater risk for these conditions.

After analyzing data from 11,140 patients who had received treatment for type 2 diabetes (mean age 65.8 years, age at diagnosis 57.8 years, and diabetes duration 7.9 years), Sophia Zoungas, MD, PhD, and colleagues reported in Diabetologia that those individuals who had lived with diabetes longer were 28% more likely to develop microvascular events (in this case, new or worsening nephropathy or retinopathy).

Zoungas and colleagues also studied macrovascular risk. For each 5-year increase in diabetes duration from baseline age (or age at diagnosis), the risk for such events (cardiovascular death, non-fatal myocardial infarction, or non-fatal stroke) increased by 13% and the risk for death from any cause rose by 15% when accounting for age, and by 49% and 78%, respectively, when accounting for age at diagnosis.

Age (or age at diagnosis) was not associated with risk for microvascular diseases but was associated with a 33% increased risk of macrovascular events and a 56% increased risk of death.