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In Women, Aspirin Might Ward Off Eye Trouble
Date:12/2/2009

Still, taking it for macular degeneration is not advised, expert says

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Women who take low-dose aspirin to protect their heart might be helping their eyes as well.

A new study by Harvard University researchers found what they described as a modest benefit for aspirin in preventing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), an eye disease that destroys sharp, central vision.

"The data indicate that long-term treatment with low-dose aspirin has no large beneficial or harmful effect on risk of AMD," said the study's lead researcher, Dr. William G. Christen, an epidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

"But, the data could not rule out a possible modest benefit," he said.

Researchers have been looking at aspirin to see if it helps or hurts the eyes. Some believe its blood-thinning quality would be helpful in letting more blood reach the capillaries in the eyes. But others have proposed that, in a common form of AMD called wet AMD, in which blood leaks in the back of the eye and results in rapid vision loss, aspirin might increase the risk of bleeding.

For the study, reported in the December issue of Ophthalmology, Christen's group collected data on 39,421 women who took part in the Women's Health Study, which originally focused on heart disease and cancer. None of the women had AMD. They were randomly assigned to take either low-dose aspirin or a placebo.

During the next 10 years, 111 women who took aspirin developed AMD, compared with 134 women who took the placebo. That equates to an 18 percent lower risk for AMD among those who took aspirin, "but the rate difference was not statistically significant," Christen said.

Dr. Stephen G. Schwartz, an associate professor of clinical ophthalmology at the University of Miami's Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, said there
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