Aspirin and increased risk of AMD?

[10/01/2012]

Aspirin and increased risk of AMD?

A very Happy New Year to all!!



I'd like to start 2012 by bringing your attention to a recent study which had highlighted the risk of Aspirin usage and development of age related macular degeneration (AMD)

(If you remember, I had earlier blogged on AMD and its effects on the eye).

AMD is the leading cause of blindness in the developed world and it affects the central vision which is essential for driving, reading and general mobility. There is the more common, less debilitating and slowly progressive "dry" form or the less common "wet" form which can cause rapid devastating visual loss.

Aspirin is a common drug which can easily be bought over the counter without the need for any prescription. It falls into the category of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and can be effective to relieve pain, fever and inflammation. Aspirin also has "anti-platelet" activity which led to its emergence as a drug used in management / prevention of heart disease or stroke.

This study was a large study conducted as a population based survey across 7 European countries. The results from this study show that the risks of AMD is associated with aspirin use and the risk increases with greater aspirin consumption.

Early AMD was found in more than a third (36%) of participants and late AMD in 3% and of those with late AMD, over two thirds had wet AMD and about one third had dry AMD. It was also found that those who took daily aspirin had twice the chance of developing wet AMD.

What does this all mean? These findings could cause concern for millions of people who take aspirin for the control of pain, inflammation or as a "blood thinner" to reduce their risk of heart disease.

No doubt this study did find an association between aspirin and AMD, however, this survey is not entirely without its flaws. The number of patients actually found to have wet AMD were still small (36 out of 4700) and further studies would be needed to ascertain a direct cause and effect. However, this interesting link did lead the authors to advise the following:

1) For individuals who already have early or late AMD, to avoid using aspirin for the control of pain or inflammation.

2) For individuals who are already taking aspirin for primary prevention (i.e. with no history of heart disease or stroke), to discuss with their doctors if it is necessary to continue doing so.

3) For individuals who are taking aspirin for secondary prevention (i.e. they have heart disease or a previous stroke) should continue taking aspirin as the benefits far outweighs the risks.

SO.....for those of you on aspirin (or know someone taking it), just pay a little more attention to this association which has been found between aspirin and AMD.