Does Taking Aspirin Raise Your Risk of AMD?

People who take aspirin for health reasons and are also concerned about age-related macular degeneration (AMD) may be worried about news reports from three recent studies. All three found that people who take aspirin regularly may be at higher risk for “wet” AMD, the form of this eye disease that’s most often linked with sudden vision loss. The latest study from Australia reported that those who took aspirin at least once a week were twice as likely as nonusers to develop wet AMD within the study’s 15 year period. A U.S.-based study reported similar results in December 2012.

But these scary-sounding statistics don’t tell the whole story.

First, the actual increase in risk is small, up only about one percent for aspirin users compared to nonusers in these studies. Second, all three studies were based on people’s self-report of aspirin use; this type of research cannot prove direct cause-and-effect. Third, expert physicians who specialize in AMD say it’s important for people who’ve been advised by their doctors to take aspirin to keep taking it. The benefits in reducing their risks for heart disease or stroke outweigh their potential risk for AMD. But, these experts also say it’s best if doctors weigh each patient’s risks and benefits individually. If aspirin is used for pain control only, then other options can be considered, especially for someone who has a family history of AMD or other risk factors.

A new, US-based national study is underway to help clear up these questions. Stay tuned here for updates!

Information courtesy of the American Academy of Ophthalmology