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Aspirin Regimen Increases Blindness Risk

Jan 24, 2013

People who take aspirin on a regular basis in the prevention of heart attacks or to promote better heart health are likely putting themselves at greater risk of an eye disease that could result in blindness.

According to a new study appearing in Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine, people who “prescribe” to the ages-old theory that regular doses of aspirin can prevent heart attacks are three times more likely to develop neurovascular "wet" age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This eye disease can cause blindness in many afflicted with it.

For the study, researchers with Sydney University in Australia found about 2,400 patients (middle-aged to elderly) who took aspirin at least occasionally for a period of 15 years. Among them, more than 250 people in the research pool said they took aspirin on a “regular” basis. For people who only took aspirin on an “occasional” basis - no more than once a week - during that 15-year period, the rate of developing “wet” AMD was 3.7 percent. The rate of the disease was nearly triple - 9.4 percent, or 1-in-10 participants, according to a report on the study at UK’s The Telegraph - among those who had taken the drug on a “regular” basis.

Millions believe that taking aspirin is an effective way of preventing a heart attack or stroke and there has been ample evidence to support this belief. Most people at risk of heart attacks or stroke are prescribed the over-the-counter medication as a supplement to other drugs. Some new studies even suggest it has the ability to slow tumor growth but for people who are not generally at risk of cardiovascular disease, the regular aspirin doses may be causing more harm than any benefits it may provide to their heart health.

Researchers in Sydney advised that people who are most at risk of heart attacks or heart disease should not stop their aspirin regimen because the risks to their heart are greater than the risk of “wet” AMD, overall. Still, the researchers wrote: “Regular aspirin use was significantly associated with an increased incidence of neovascular [wet] AMD.”

This study adds to evidence published last year from the European Eye Study, according to The Telegraph, that found taking aspirin on a regular basis doubled a person’s chance of developing advanced “wet” AMD. This most recent study noted that it could not be certain that aspirin was the cause of the disease, specifically. “Wet” AMD is irreversible and can result in blindness, although there are treatments to slow or reverse the eye disease.

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