Aspirin Bad For Eyes?

Frequent aspirin use possibly linked to age related macular degeneration

January 8, 2012 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) An aspirin a day may help keep heart disease at bay, but it may also contribute to age-related macular degeneration, or gradual vision loss, according to a new study from Europe.

Among seniors who visited eye clinics, greater use of aspirin was associated with higher levels of severity of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

"Discuss advantages and possible side effects of frequent aspirin use with your doctor."

Paulus T.V.M. de Jong, MD, PhD, of the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience and the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, led a team that examined 4,691 participants aged 65 older, randomly selected from seven eye clinics throughout Europe.

A little over a third of the patients (36 percent) had early age-related macular degeneration, and 3.3 percent had advanced forms of the disease.

The researchers compared the incidence of AMD with how frequently the adults took aspirin. Just over 40 percent reported using aspirin monthly, and 17.3 percent used it daily.

When the researchers controlled for other characteristics that might also contribute to AMD, they found an association between those who reported daily use of aspirin and exhibited early stages of "wet" AMD, the more severe form of the disease.

Daily aspirin users were also little more than twice as likely to be in the 3.3 percent that had late-stage wet AMD.

Among those with wet AMD, about a third took aspirin daily though only 16 percent of those without the disease took aspirin everyday. The researchers did not find any association between aspirin use and the other "dry" form of AMD.

The researchers tried to control for the participants with a history of cardiovascular disease because those participants would be more likely to develop wet AMD and more likely to be taking aspirin everyday. They still found an independent association between aspirin use and wet AMD when this history was accounted for.

The authors caution that they relied on self-reported data for aspirin use and did not gather information on the dosages the participants took or on other conditions, such as arthritis, that could affect their health.

The researchers also noted that previous studies have shown conflicting results regarding the connection between macular degeneration and aspirin use, so they recommended additional research.

The study was published online in the journal Ophthalmology in September and was funded by the European Commission Fifth Framework and the Macular Disease Society UK. The researchers reported no conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
January 5, 2012
Last Updated:
January 8, 2012