For many years, doctors have recommended that people take aspirin to help prevent heart attacks, strokes and cancer.
However, in a new study, scientists at Sydney University in Australia found that people who take aspirin on a regularly are more likely to develop ‘wet’ age-related macular degeneration (AMD) than those who do not.
Wet AMD is when someone's central vision becomes progressively more blurred and he or she eventually goes blind, reports The Telegraph.
Scientists studied 2,400 middle-aged and elderly people for 15 years. 257 “regular” users of aspirin took it at least once a week. The rest only took it occasionally. One in 27 of the "occasional" aspirin users (3.7 per cent) had developed wet AMD, but almost one in 10 of the ‘regular’ users (9.4 per cent) had developed it.
The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), and concluded: “Regular aspirin use was significantly associated with an increased incidence of neovascular [wet] AMD.”
Oxford University researchers have found that aspirin reduces the incidence of some cancers by a third, while it also stops the growth of tumors.
This is not the first study to connect aspirin and blindness. Over a year ago, researchers working on the European Eye Study found that aspirin doubled the risk of advanced wet AMD.
However, the researchers admitted they could not conclude that aspirin caused the disease, because the study did not follow people over time.
The scientists behind today’s study did not think their research warranted changing guidelines for taking aspirin “except perhaps in patients with strong risk factors for neovascular [wet] AMD."
A spokesman for the Macular Society said: “The evidence is now accumulating about the association of aspirin and wet AMD. However, it is not overwhelming at this point. For patients at risk of cardiovascular disease, the health risks of stopping or not prescribing aspirin are much higher than those of developing wet AMD. There are treatments for wet AMD as long as it is diagnosed in time.”
“Patients with wet AMD in one eye should have their other eye carefully monitored so that any sign of wet AMD can be found quickly. Potential risks to the eye need to be discussed between the patient and their doctors.”