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Aspirin Linked to Blinding Eye Disease

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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Jan. 22, 2013 -- Regular aspirin users are more likely to develop the “wet” form of age-related macular degeneration compared to people who rarely or never take the drug, a new study shows.

Aspirin is one of the most widely used drugs in the world. Millions of people with heart disease take a daily low dose of aspirin in hopes of preventing heart attacks and stroke. It’s also used to ease pain.

Macular degeneration is a leading cause of blindness in older adults, and it is on the rise. The “wet” form accounts for only about 10% to 15% of cases, but it progresses more rapidly and is more likely to lead to vision loss than the “dry” form.

In “wet” macular degeneration, tiny new blood vessels grow under the retina, the light-sensing part of the eye. These blood vessels break open and leak, causing scar tissue to form. Over time, the scar tissue clouds central vision. It’s not clear why this happens.

Both kinds of macular degeneration become more common as people age. Beyond age, the only risk factor that’s consistently been linked to the condition is smoking.

News that aspirin may be linked to macular degeneration surfaced last year when a large European study found that regular aspirin users were more likely to develop the sight-stealing disease. Before that, two large studies found no association between aspirin and macular degeneration. Another study had even suggested that aspirin might protect against the “dry” form of the disease.

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