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Macular Degeneration Health Center

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Regular Aspirin Use May Boost Risk of Eye Problem

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Dec. 18, 2012 -- Taking aspirin regularly appears to slightly raise the risk of the eye condition known as age-related macular degeneration or AMD, new research suggests.

The increased risk only occurred with people who had taken aspirin regularly 10 years before they were diagnosed with the potentially blinding eye disease. They had taken aspirin at least twice a week for more than three months, says researcher Barbara E.K. Klein, MD, MPH.

The risk was for the type of macular degeneration known as wet or neovascular AMD, says Klein, professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, Madison.

Wet macular degeneration is generally more severe than another version, known as dry macular degeneration.

Although people taking aspirin regularly were two times more likely to get the condition, Klein says the absolute risk is still low because the condition is not common. About 1% of people aged mid-40s and older get wet macular degeneration, she says.

Klein studied nearly 5,000 men and women, ages 43 and older. She followed them for 20 years, although not all of them stayed in the study that long.

The research is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Aspirin & Eye Problems: Study Details

Previous research findings about aspirin use and macular degeneration risk have been mixed.

As aspirin use and macular degeneration are increasing, Klein decided to follow men and women over many years to see if she could find a link.

Nearly 20% of adults, or 1 in 5, take aspirin regularly. Some use it for temporary relief of pain or fever. Others take it daily to prevent heart attacks.

The macula is a small area of the retina, the tissue lining the back of the eye, that is responsible for central vision.

Klein looked at wet (late) and dry (early) macular degeneration for the study. Both are potentially blinding conditions.

Over the course of the study, 512 people were diagnosed with early AMD and 117 with late AMD.

Although regular use of aspirin 10 years before the diagnosis was linked with late macular degeneration, aspirin use five years before the diagnosis was not linked with an increased risk of either form of AMD.

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