New research has revealed that statins may prevent dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
The drugs, which help to lower the level of cholesterol in the blood, have been found to help clear away fatty deposits behind the retina which lead to sight loss.
A new study by scientists at Harvard Medical School in the US found treating patients with a high 80mg dose of a statin destroyed the build-up of fat in their eyes and also improved the visual acuity in 10 patients.
It is hoped that future larger trials will show that the drug has the potential to halt progression and even reverse the disease in some cases.
Eye specialist Professor Joan Miller, of Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, said: “We found intensive doses of statins carry the potential for clearing up the lipid debris that can lead to vision impairment in a subset of patients with macular degeneration.
“We hope this promising preliminary clinical trial will be the foundation for an effective treatment for millions of patients afflicted with AMD.”
The Society’s chief executive Cathy Yelf, said: "This is an exciting result from a preliminary clinical trial and we look forward to following the progress of this research.
"Although AMD usually affects people over the age of 60, it can also affect younger people. As our population ages it is becoming far more common and we urgently need to find a cure. It is a devastating condition which has a significant impact on those diagnosed, as well as their families. This is why it is more important than ever before for us to continue to fund research."
The researchers now hope to replicate their results in a much bigger trial involving many more patients recruited from several opthalmic centres in the US.