Aspirin Use May Increase Risk of Worsening Macular Degeneration

10:03 AM

I'm often getting recommendations for new topics (thanks everyone-- please keep it up!!) and this is one that FOX and ABC News picked up a few weeks ago on their medical segment.  So many Americans take a daily aspirin, and any chance of a linkage with the word "blindness" is quite a scary concept to hear about on the news.  But it's not time to shelve your aspirin yet if you regularly take it at the advice of your primary care doctor -- let's get down to the real facts about this new report.

Aspirin use MAY be linked to worsening Macular Degeneration

Dry Macular Degeneration
Firstly, do you have macular degeneration? If the answer is no (your eye care provider checks for this at every comprehensive examination), then this new possible linkage between aspirin and possible vision loss does not apply in your case.  Macular degeneration is a condition that destroys central vision,  typically affecting us as we age.  Risk factors for this disease include genetics, sun exposure, aging, and smoking.  There are two forms of macular degeneration: dry (the least visually devastating form) and wet (where there is active bleeding inside the eye, typically resulting in permanent reduction of vision).  Macular degeneration even its most advanced form will never cause complete blindness, but it can distort central vision so badly that it is hard to read, recognize faces, or do any of the fine detail tasks that we perform in every day life.

The new study in question followed around 2,000 participants in Sydney, Australia.  Results appear to show a correlation between daily aspirin use and the incidence of "wet" macular degeneration. Only 0.8 percent of non-aspirin users developed wet macular degeneration over the 15 year study period, while 1.9 percent of aspirin users developed the aggressive form of the disease.  Scientists say that the numbers are too small to point to definitive information that aspirin may worsen macular degeneration, so expect to see new studies launched in the near future to explore this research further.  For now, if you are taking aspirin recommended by your primary care physician, it is advisable to continue.  For those patients who do have macular degeneration, there may be more of dialogue regarding regular aspirin use between your eye care provider and your primary care provider to see if there are other alternatives.  

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