JAMA: Daily aspirin nearly triples risk of blindness disease

Heart benefits of regularly taking aspirin outweighs sight risk

A new study in JAMA Internal Medicine finds that patients who routinely take aspirin are nearly three times more likely to develop neurovascular "wet" age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and become blind.

Researchers at Sydney University followed nearly 2,400 middle-aged and elderly patients over 15 years. Nearly all participants took aspirin occasionally, with 257 participants taking it at least once a week.

After 15 years, the researchers found that:

  • 3.7% of "occasional" aspirin users developed wet AMD; and
  • 9.4% of "regular" aspirin users developed wet AMD.

The new study augments previous research from the European Eye Study, which found that aspirin doubles the risk of advanced wet AMD, a disease that can cause blindness in its advanced stages.

Many patients take low-dose aspirin daily to stave off strokes and heart attacks. Moreover, recent research showed that the drug may reduce cancer incidence and slow tumor growth.

Despite the research linking aspirin to wet AMD, a Macular Society spokesperson notes that, "For patients at risk of cardiovascular disease, the health risks of stopping or not prescribing aspirin are much higher than those of developing wet AMD." She adds, "There are treatments for wet AMD as long as it is diagnosed in time" (Adams, London Telegraph, 1/21).

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