Mind and Body

Regular aspirin use linked with rare eye condition

Study on risks of macular degeneration


A new study has found that routinely taking aspirin is linked with an increased risk of developing a rare eye condition, the New York Times reported.

Published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, the research found those who regularly took aspirin doubled their odds of contracting neovascular macular degeneration, the most severe form of macular degeneration.  However the condition is also the rarest form of the eye disease and the increased risk was very slight – increasing from about one in 200 older Americans to one in 100 older aspirin takers.

Although the risk was negligible, the findings may still be significant because one in five U.S. adults takes aspirin either on a regular basis to ward off diseases such as heart disease and some cancers, according to the New York Times.

Macular degeneration is a chronic eye disease, which ultimately causes deterioration of the macula – the retina’s center.  As a result, the central vision slowly blurs and patients find it more difficult to distinguish fine details.

The researchers used data from the long-term Beaver Dam Eye Study, which has been following thousands of patients for more than 30 years.  Those in the study were categorized as being regular aspirin users if they took at least two aspirin per week for more than three months.  People who had been taking aspirin the longest ultimately had the highest risk, just as long-term smokers would have a higher risk than smokers who just stared, the researchers said.

Dr. Barbara Klein, a professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the study’s lead author, said the results should not dissuade someone from continuing their aspirin regimen – especially if it has been prescribed by a doctor.

“If you’re an aspirin user and your doctor put you on it for cardio-protective reasons, this is not a reason to stop it,” she said. “It’s better to have blurry vision, but still be here to complain about it than it is to die of a heart attack.”

Click for more from The New York Times.