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Long term aspirin users at higher risk of blindness in old age

Long term aspirin users may be at a higher risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, which can cause blindness…

Aspirin was linked to age-related macular degeneration, the study found.

Long term aspirin users may be at a higher risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, which can cause blindness in old age, a new study has found.

The study, led by the University of Sydney and published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine today, examined data on 2389 people, including regular aspirin users and non-aspirin users, over a 15 year period.

At the 15-year mark, 63 individuals out of the 2389 people had developed incident neovascular age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

“We report from this prospective population-based cohort that regular aspirin use is associated with a two-fold increase in risk of neovascular AMD during a 15-year period. These findings appear to be independent of cardiovascular disease, smoking, and other risk factors,” the authors of the study wrote.

“The cumulative incidence of neovascular AMD among nonregular aspirin users was 0.8% at five years, 1.6% at 10 years, and 3.7% at 15 years; among regular aspirin users, the cumulative incidence was 1.9% at five years, 7% at 10 years and 9.3% at 15 years, respectively.”

An accompanying commentary piece published in the same journal by Dr Sanjay Kaul and Dr George A. Diamond, both of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles, advised a cautious interpretation of the study’s findings.

“From a purely science-of-medicine perspective, the strength of evidence is not sufficiently robust to be clinically directive,” the commentary said.

“These findings are, at best, hypothesis-generating that should await validation in prospective randomised studies before guiding clinical practice or patient behaviour.”

Professor John McNeil, head of the Monash University Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine and Co-chief investigator of the ASPREE study into the benefits and risks of aspirin, said any observational study should be taken with a grain of salt.

“The relationship between aspirin and AMD is very complex,” said Professor McNeil, who was not involved in the University of Sydney study published today in JAMA Internal Medicine.

“In the early stage, it may prevent it but in the late stage it may cause bleeding. We need proper clinical trials to sort this out,” he said, adding that the National Health and Medical Research Council was funding a clinical trial that was expected to deliver results by about 2018.

“That will provide a much more definitive answer.”

Professor Christopher Reid, also from Monash University’s Department of Epidemiology and Preventative Medicine said the study published in JAMA Internal Medicine today was well conducted but was of a relatively small number of people and non-randomised.

“Dose of aspirin and length of exposure to aspirin are also not particularly well collected. The authors and also the attached commentary emphasise the importance of not over interpreting these findings as there are many factors (unmeasured) in observational studies that may influence the outcomes reported,” he said.

“It is too early and there is not sufficient data to try to relate these findings into clinical practice. Those who are concerned should discuss with their doctor, however observational study findings should not change patient treatment nor clinical practice.”

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4 Comments sorted by

  1. Chris Borthwick


    I'd certainly like to see a breakdown into low-dose (anti-heart-disease) regular dosage and higher-dose (pain relief) dosage.

  2. Bernie Masters

    environmental consultant at FIA Technology Pty Ltd, B K Masters and Associates

    The quoted research article states: "We determined the use of aspirin and other medications during a structured interview using a standard questionnaire. We defined regular use of aspirin as frequency of once or more per week in the past year .... ..... Although we did not collect information on aspirin dosage, most aspirin use in Australia is prescribed at 150 mg daily."
    There appear to be enough holes in this research to drive a truck through. It claims to be a 15 year study, yet patients could have been taking aspirin for just one year. Once a week aspirin taking seems to be pretty light usage of this chemical. Of most concern, the researchers made no attempt to measure dosage of consumed aspirin, a serious oversight in my view.
    I think this research paper is too flawed to be taken seriously, although I note it's findings have already been reported in at least one major newspaper in Australia.

  3. Chris Borthwick


    "Aspirin: how low is low dose?
    John Lloyd, Division of Haematology, Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science, and Department of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology, University of Adelaide, Adelaide;
    and FelixBochner, Department of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology, University of Adelaide and Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Royal Adelaide Hospital, Adelaide

    Aspirin reduces the risk of non-fatal stroke, non-fatal myocardial infarction and vascular death in patients at…

    Read more
  4. Russell T

    IT Consultant

    There is another article up 'Goji berry could help blindness'. In this it states that Goji juice may help with diabetes induced blindness. Knowing little or nothing about this topic I would ask the question, did regular aspirin users (I am one) have pre-existing conditions that gave them a pre disposition toward developing AMD blindness. So I think all this is really saying is, 'Don't Panic' lets look at this in more detail.