Researchers state that seniors have double the risk of an eye disease that causes blindness. A recent study found a link between age-related macular degeneration and aspirin usage. Millions of heart patients take daily low-dose aspirin per doctor’s orders to stave off additional heart attacks and strokes. Many without heart disease take aspirin a a vitamin.
Australian researchers stated that there was “insufficient evidence” to advise patients against taking aspirin, although patients were advised of the potential risk if they already had AMD (Age-Related Macular Degeneration) in one eye.
The “wet” form of AMD is caused by leaking blood vessels in the eyes, which leads to loss of vision in the center of the eye’s field of vision. The “dry” version of AMD is less severe and more common, however seniors afflicted with this version of AMD still suffer visual impairment.
The recent study compared the rates of wet AMD amongst 2000 regular and non-regular users of aspirin over a period of 15 years.
Among non-regular users, rates of wet AMD rose from 0.8% at five years to 1.6% at 10 years and 3.7% at 15 years.
Corresponding rates for regular aspirin users were 1.9%, 7%, and 9.3%.
It found that aspirin users — regardless of their heart health or smoking history — were at greater risk of the more serious type of vision loss.
Dr Gerald Liew, from the University of Sydney in Australia, who led the study, said,
‘Currently, there is insufficient evidence to recommend changing clinical practice, except perhaps in patients with strong risk factors for neovascular AMD.. in whom it may be appropriate to raise the potentially small risk of incident neovascular AMD with long-term aspirin therapy.’
Any decision on whether to stop aspirin treatment was complex and should be done on an individual basis, said the researchers.
US experts Dr Sanjay Kaul and Dr George Diamond, from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said in a comment that more research was needed before patients could be advised to change the status quo.
‘From a purely science-of-medicine perspective, the strength of the evidence is not sufficiently robust to be clinically directive’ they said.
Previous research has also suggested a link between AMD and regular aspirin use.
Professor Yit Yang, of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, said,
‘This tells us that patients who developed wet macular degeneration were more likely to have been put on aspirin for other health reasons.
‘Those patients who were on aspirin and those who were not on aspirin may be different in other ways and may differ in terms of other risks of wet macular degeneration such as blood pressure or cardiovascular health or even family history.
‘It is different from saying that aspirin actually causes the development of wet macular degeneration. However it is a small signal that there could be a direct causative link but it is not possible to confirm this at present.
‘It is important not to ignore these signals of potential harm or side effects that medicines can cause but at present there is not enough evidence from these studies to justify recommending to patients that they should discontinue aspirin therapy.’