Posted: 01/22/2013 3:40 pm EST
A pain-reliever known for its life-saving potential in the event of a heart attack might also be linked with age-related vision loss when taken regularly, according to a new study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
The findings show an association between regularly taking aspirin and an increased risk of developing the more severe “wet” form of age-related macular degeneration — even when smoking and heart disease risks are taken into account. And the researchers found that the relationship was “dose-dependent” — meaning, the more aspirin a person took regularly, the higher the risk of the vision loss condition.
Age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness among people over the age of 55, is a vision loss condition that occurs with the degeneration of the retina, according to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation. It is marked by loss of sight in the center of the field of vision, and is separated into two main types of macular degeneration: Dry, which is more common, and wet, which is rarer but more severe, the Mayo Clinic reported. Wet age-related macular degeneration occurs when blood vessels leak into the macula (which is located in the middle of the retina), thereby blocking vision.
The new study, conducted by University of Sydney researchers, included 2,389 people whose aspirin habits and vision loss were tracked over 15 years (via four examinations). Of those people, 257 (or 10.8 percent) regularly took aspirin; however, researchers didn’t have full information on why these people took the aspirin, MedPage Today noted.
By the end of the study period, 24.5 percent of the study participants had developed “wet,” or neovascular, age-related macular degeneration. But researchers found that a greater proportion of regular aspirin users had the disease as they followed up throughout the years than the aspirin non-users.
For example, at the five-year mark, 0.8 percent of people who didn’t regularly take aspirin had “wet” age-related macular degeneration, compared with 1.9 percent of people who did regularly take aspirin. Incidence was 1.6 percent among non-users at 10 years, compared with 7 percent among users. And incidence was 3.7 percent among non-users at 15 years, compared with 9.3 percent among users.
However, researchers noted that the evidence is still not strong enough to suggest people altogether stop regular aspirin use, though some who may be at an increased risk for age-related macular degeneration might want to talk to their doctors about their risks.