Taking aspirin on a regular basis over a number of years increases your risk of developing a form of blindness called ‘wet’ age-related macular degeneration, according to a new study.
Aspirin can increase the risk of developing a form of blindness
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a painless condition that leads to the loss of central vision. ‘Wet’ AMD is the most serious form of the disease and it develops when abnormal blood vessels grow in the wrong place.
It is still unclear what causes the macula to become damaged, but getting older, smoking and a family history of the AMD are known to increase the risk.
However, scientists have now found that people who take aspirin for many years are more likely to develop wet AMD.
Researchers at the University of Sydney carried out eye tests on 2,389 people after five, 10 and 15 years. On average the participants were in their mid-60s, and one in 10 of them were taking aspirin at least once a week.
Writing in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, they found that 9.3% of the patients taking aspirin developed wet AMD by the end of the study, compared with 3.7% of the patients who did not take aspirin.
They said: "The increased risk of [wet] AMD was detected only after 10 or 15 years, suggesting that cumulative dosing is important."
"Given the widespread use of aspirin, any increased risk of disabling conditions will be significant and affect many people."
However, the researchers say that there is ‘insufficient evidence’ for most people to change how the drug is prescribed, and further research is needed in order to find out more.
Many people with and without medical insurance are prescribed aspirin by their doctor to reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack in patients with cardiovascular disease. There are also reports that regular aspirin can help reduce the risk of cancer.
The Macular Society said: "Patients who are taking aspirin because their doctor has prescribed it should not stop taking it without consulting their doctor first."
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