Regular aspirin use has been linked to a significantly increased risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), according to a recent study published in JAMA.

Macular degeneration is a condition which largely affects the elderly and results in a progressive loss of vision. It occurs when the retina becomes damaged, leading to a slow decline in retinal function. A recent study stated that age related macular degeneration is set to increase, with 20% of people above the age of 60 already presenting early signs of the condition.

According to background information in the study:

Aspirin use in the United States is widespread, with an estimated 19.3 percent of adults reporting regular consumption, and reported use increases with age. The results of cross-sectional studies of aspirin use and its relation to age-related macular degeneration (AMD) have been inconsistent.

AMD is a potentially blinding condition for which prevalence and incidence are increasing with the increased survival of the population, and regular use of aspirin is common and becoming more widespread in persons in the age range at highest risk for this disease. Therefore, it is imperative to further examine this potential association.”

The study, led by Barbara E. K. Klein, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, attempted to identify whether aspirin is associated with an increased risk of AMD.

They analyzed data from the Beaver Dam Eye Study, a longitudinal population-based study of age-related eye diseases. A total of 4,926 people participated in the study.

Every five years, from 1998-1990 through 2008-2010, examinations were carried out. They asked them about their aspirin use, in particular whether they took aspirin more than twice a week for over 3 months.

Over the course of the study they found that 512 people developed early AMD and 117 developed late AMD.

A higher percentage of regular aspirin users were found to develop late AMD compared to nonusers (1.8 percent vs. 1.0 percent). 1.4 percent of the aspirin users developed neovascular AMD compared to only 0.6 percent of nonusers.

There was no association found between aspirin use and incidence of early AMD.

The authors concluded:

“Our findings are consistent with a small but statistically significant association between regular aspirin use and incidence of neovascular AMD. Additional replication is required to confirm our observations. If confirmed, defining the causal mechanisms may be important in developing methods to block this effect to prevent or retard the development of neovascular AMD in persons who use aspirin, especially to prevent CVD.”

Written by Joseph Nordqvist