Over 4,000 elderly Europeans were researched where regular aspirin use was cited as a possible link to late stage, age related macular degeneration. It is believed at this time that aspirin use exacerbates the eye disease rather than directly causing it.
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Regular aspirin users at higher risk of sight problems, research suggests
People who take a daily dose of aspirin are twice as likely to suffer blindness in later life, a study suggests.
Researchers who tested more than 4,000 elderly people across Europe found that those who took the drug every day were twice as likely to be diagnosed with late stage age related macular degeneration as those who did not.
While the study provided no evidence of a causal link between aspirin and the condition, experts are now examining whether a regular dose somehow exacerbates the disease.
Millions of Britons are thought to take a daily dose of aspirin in order to lower the risk of suffering heart disease and strokes.
Studies have also suggested that regular small doses can help cut the risk of suffering from certain types of cancer.
But this latest study will increase concern among those who claim the drug can also have a number of damaging side effects.
AMD affects thousands of people each year causing problems with central vision.
While not painful, the sufferer can find it hard to focus directly on an object, making it hard to read, drive or watch television.
There are two types of the condition – wet and dry – and while the exact cause of the disease are not fully understood, lifestyle including diet and whether the individual smokes, are thought to be a contributing factors.
During a recent major study, researchers based in Holland found that of 839 people who took aspirin each day around 4 per cent had an advanced form of the disease called wet macular degeneration, which leads to the most profound blindess.
In comparison, just two per cent who took aspirin less frequently had the same type of macular degeneration.
The researchers found no link between aspirin use and the dry form of the disease of the early stages of the condition.
One theory that has been put forward is that AMD could be linked to heart disease and so is therefore found in aspirin users who are trying to combat their coronary condition.
But lead researcher, Paulus de Jong from the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience and Academic Medical Centre said his team had analysed as “meticulously as possible” whether cardiovascular disease might have influenced the results.
He said the results still suggested aspirin users – regardless of their heart health – are at a greater risk of the of suffering late stage AMD.
However he added that for those who were suffering from heart disease, the benefits of taking aspirin outweighed the risks posed to their vision.
“A healthy eye with full visual capacities is of no use in a dead body,” he said.
By Martin Evans