Certain drugs may increase a person’s risk of macular degeneration (MD). These include specific eye drops, some blood pressure medications, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

MD is an eye disorder that affects the central part of the retina, called the fovea. Damage to the fovea can lead to vision problems that cause issues with reading or driving.

Although medications do not cause MD, some drugs are known risk factors. This means they can elevate a person’s likelihood of developing the condition.

If people know they are at risk of MD, they may want to speak with a doctor if they already take these medications.

Read on to learn more about which medications can increase a person’s risk of MD.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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While medications do not cause MD, some drugs are possible risk factors for the condition developing in people.

Doctors do not yet know the exact cause of MD, but studies suggest that the condition has many possible risk factors. A person with MD may have many factors that contribute to their condition.

There are two forms of MD: wet and dry. The dry form is more common, but the wet form accounts for most cases of blindness relating to MD.

Learn more about the differences between wet and dry MD.

Researchers recognize certain drugs as possible risk factors for MD.

However, some people may not be able to avoid taking certain medications. The best prevention for MD is usually lifestyle changes.

Medications that may be risk factors for MD include:

  • ocular antihypertensive eye drops
  • blood pressure medications
  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Ocular antihypertensive eye drops

Ocular antihypertensives are eye drop medications that doctors prescribe to reduce eye pressure. People can have high blood pressure in their eyes with glaucoma, so these eye drops can help relieve pressure.

A 2022 study evaluated the association between ocular hypertensive eye drops and MD. The researchers found that alpha agonist eye drops had links to an increased risk of MD.

Blood pressure medications

In a 2019 study on female participants, researchers showed that those with high blood pressure and diuretic medications had an increased risk of MD. However, it is unclear if this drug class had links to MD. The risk of the condition may have associations with diuretics being ineffective in controlling blood pressure in the participants.

The connection between these medications and MD may be because high blood pressure is a risk factor for MD. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can damage blood vessels around the retina and may contribute to the development of MD.

Researchers have not yet confirmed whether certain types of blood pressure medications are risk factors for MD.

Calcium channel blockers, beta-blockers, and certain diuretic drugs may have links to MD. However, more studies are necessary to confirm these trends.


NSAIDs can increase a person’s risk of bleeding, which may worsen or increase the risk of MD.

Experts used the same sample of female participants above to study the effects of NSAID use on MD. However, the study showed no link between using NSAIDs and developing MD. People who took a specific type of NSAID called cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors or low dose aspirin actually had a lower risk of MD.

The California Men’s Health Study looked at the effect of NSAIDs on MD in males and found the overall effect of the medication to be small.

However, researchers also noted a lower risk of long-term wet MD in people using NSAIDs. This suggests that these medications may protect against MD.

In general, further studies are necessary to determine which drugs are risk factors for MD in a more diverse population.

Doctors have identified several risk factors relating to MD. Some risk factors, such as genetics and sociodemographic factors, are unmodifiable.

Therefore, prevention strategies focus on lowering the effect of modifiable risk factors, such as:

  • smoking
  • nutrition
  • physical activity
  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • multivitamin use
  • blood pressure

Smoking is a risk factor for many conditions, including MD. However, alcohol use has no links to developing MD.

Nevertheless, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend taking appropriate lifestyle measures to prevent the condition. These include getting regular eye exams and lowering the intake of cholesterol.

Taking supplements of certain vitamins may also help reduce a person’s risk of MD. These include antioxidants and zinc. Some experts suggest that hormone replacement therapy may protect females who have gone through menopause.

Doctors do not recommend stopping a medication because of its possible risks of developing MD. Individuals should talk with a doctor first before ceasing any medication.

People with a family history of vision loss should contact a doctor. Regular eye exams are necessary to detect eye problems early, and treatments for MD are most effective when individuals start them early.

It is unclear if medications cause MD, but some may be risk factors for developing the condition. People with concerns about whether their medication increases their risk of MD should speak with a doctor.

The most significant risk factors for MD are lifestyle habits. Doctors can help people manage lifestyle factors that contribute to developing MD.