Taking aspirin significantly increases risk of blindness

Regular use of aspirin can dramatically increase the risk of an eye disease - that causes blindness - in older people, researchers warn.

A new study found a link between regular use of aspirin and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) - the most common cause of sight loss in people over 50s.

Aspirin is one of the most widely used medications in the world and is commonly used in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, such as myocardial infarction (heart attack) and ischemic stroke, according to a report published by JAMA Internal Medicine.

While a recent study suggested that regular aspirin use was associated with AMD, particularly the more visually devastating neovascular (wet) form, other studies have reported inconsistent findings. Smoking is also a preventable risk factor for AMD, researchers said.

Gerald Liew, of the University of Sydney, 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 examinationsduring a 15-year period. Of 2,389 participants, 257 individuals (10.8 per cent) were regular aspirin users.

After the 15-year follow-up, 63 individuals (24.5 per cent) developed incident neovascular AMD.

"The cumulative incidence of neovascular AMD among nonregular aspirin users was 0.8 per cent at five years, 1.6 per cent at 10 years, and 3.7 per cent at 15 years. Among regular aspirin users, the cumulative incidence was 1.9 per cent at five years, 7 per cent at 10 years and 9.3 per cent at 15 years, respectively," researchers said.

"Regular aspirin use was significantly associated with an increased incidence of neovascular AMD," they said.

Researchers note that any decision concerning whether to stop aspirin therapy is "complex and needs to be individualised".

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