MONDAY, Jan. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Long-term aspirin use may slightly raise the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness among the elderly, a new study suggests.
An estimated 19 percent of U.S. adults report using aspirin regularly, often for its heart-protective benefits, and its use increases with age. Incidence of age-related macular degeneration also rises in older age, making this association important to examine, the study authors said. About 1.8 million Americans currently have the eye disease, which destroys sharp, central vision.
The study found that the potential risk is small but statistically significant "and needs to be balanced with the significant morbidity and mortality of undertreated cardiovascular disease," said study senior researcher Jie Jin Wang, a senior research fellow at the Center for Vision Research at the University of Sydney.
Also, "the increased risk of age-related macular degeneration was only detected after 10 or 15 years, suggesting cumulative dosage of aspirin may be important," Wang said.
Although aspirin is among the most effective cardiovascular disease preventives, regular use over the long term has been associated with adverse side effects, Wang added. Study results regarding aspirin's link to macular degeneration have been inconsistent to date.
The report, published Jan. 21 in the online edition of the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, collected data on more than 2,300 people. Regular aspirin use was defined as once or more a week. As part of the study, the participants had four eye exams over 15 years.
Almost 11 percent of patients used aspirin regularly. After 15 years, about 25 percent of the aspirin users developed what is called neovascular age-related macular degeneration.
The cumulative rate was about 9 percent among aspirin users compared to less than 4 perc
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