Aspirin use linked to risk of macular degeneration

Regular aspirin use appears to be associated with an increased risk of neovascular age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in older people, and the association appears to be independent of a history of cardiovascular disease and smoking, according to a study.

Aspirin is one of the most widely used medications in the world and is commonly used in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, according to background information in the study, which is scheduled for publication in JAMA Internal Medicine (formerly the Archives of Internal Medicine). Although a recent study suggested that regular aspirin use was associated with AMD, particularly the more visually devastating neovascular form, other studies have reported inconsistent findings.

Gerald Liew, PhD, of the University of Sydney, Australia, and colleagues examined whether regular aspirin use (defined as once or more per week in the past year) was associated with a higher risk of developing AMD by conducting a prospective analysis of data from an Australian study that included four examinations during a 15-year period. Of 2,389 participants, 257 individuals (10.8%) were regular aspirin users.

After the 15-year follow-up, 63 of those individuals (24.5%) had developed incident neovascular AMD, according to the study data.

The cumulative incidence of neovascular AMD was higher in regular aspirin users when compared with non-regular aspirin users at five years (1.9% vs. 0.8%), 10 years (7% vs. 1.6%) and 15 years (9.3% vs. 3.7%). “Regular aspirin use was significantly associated with an increased incidence of neovascular AMD,” the authors wrote.

The authors noted any decision about whether to stop aspirin therapy is “complex and need to be individualized.”

“Currently, there is insufficient evidence to recommend changing clinical practice, except perhaps in patients with strong risk factors for neovascular AMD (e.g. existing late AMD in the fellow eye) in whom it may be appropriate to raise the potentially small risk of incident neovascular AMD with long-term aspirin therapy,” the authors concluded.

The study abstract is available at

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