Could Taking Aspirin Damage Your Eyesight?

By on December 21, 2012

Aspirin is a common drug available in most pharmacies and is popularly used as pain relief to treat headaches and other general aches and pains. It is estimated that 19.3% of adults regularly take aspirin; a percentage which increases with age. For many of us, we take the medication without much thought to the consequences. However, a new study suggests that regular aspirin users may be at an increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Age-related macular degeneration is a condition affecting a vast proportion of the population and is one of the prime causes of loss of sight. The macula is a small part of the light-sensitive area at the back of the eye called the retina. Damage to the macula affects the central area of vision by causing blurring and dark patches. One of the early symptoms of the condition is a difficulty viewing fine details or small print. It can also cause sensitivity to bright light.

The new study carried out by Barbara E.K. Klein from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health involved the analysis of data from 4,926 people who reported regularly to the research group. They were examined every five years from 1998-1990 through 2008-2012 and were asked about their aspirin use.

It was found that of the total number of participants, 512 people developed early age-related macular degeneration and 117 developed late AMD. Of the participants, those who took aspirin more than twice a week for over 3 months were found to have a higher rate of developing late AMD than those who didn’t take aspirin at all. 1.8% of the regular users developed late AMD, compared to 1.0% of the non-users.

However, the study was an ‘observational study’, meaning the researchers gather their data based entirely on their observations of the subjects and making potential links between the results. This can be somewhat limiting because it is difficult to ascertain whether the key factors of age and aspirin usage are causing the deterioration in eyesight or whether other factors such as race, gender and environment are influencing the results.

Furthermore, Dr. William Christen, an epidemiologist and medicine professor at Harvard Medical School argues that aspirin offers numerous benefits for the heart which far outweigh the risks posed to eyesight. Research has presented aspirin as an established source of cardioprotection and can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. As cardiovascular disease is a life-threatening condition, it is believed that aspirin should continue to be taken as a preventative measure and the threat of macular degeneration should be observed with caution.
Although further investigation is needed to confirm the results of the effect of aspirin on eyesight, it is hoped that this study can contribute to a better understanding of the condition to work towards finding solutions

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