A new study done by some researchers in Australia shows that people who have developed the habit of taking aspirin to relieve their pain are more likely, as they grow old, to develop macular degeneration in comparison to people who rarely or never take the painkiller. Macular degeneration is a disease that causes blindness in old adults and it happens to be on the rise. It has two forms. The wet form and the dry form. Even though the wet form only occur in less than 15% of the cases, it progresses rapidly and is more likely to cause loss of vision.
Aspirin is a drug that has been used all over the world. It is mostly used as a painkiller but some other patients may use a low dose of it to deal with their heart disease or stroke. The idea that this drug could potentially cause macular degeneration surfaced last year when a group of European researchers found that people who were on that drug were more likely to develop the disease. Before that, 2 large studies were done and there was no link found. Another study even suggested that aspirin could even help prevent the dry form of macular degeneration.
For the new study that was done in the period of 15 years, the researchers observed a group of 2000 older adults. At the beginning of the study each individual who took part was interviewed and Doctors took note of the daily lifestyle, eating habits and medication use. About 11% of the people under study were taking aspirin on regular basis. That means they were taking aspirin at least once a week for the past year. The fact is 15 years later 63 people in the population under study had developed macular degeneration. Out of that 63, 15 were regular users of aspirin.
Based on these numbers the statistics show that those who took the aspirin on regular basis are 2 times more likely to develop macular degeneration compared to those who didn’t use the drug. That statement remained through even when doctors included other factors that could cause the disease. Factor like smoking, blood pressure, heart diseases included, aspirin was still twice more likely to cause the blindness.
The researchers published their findings in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal.
What should you do about that?
The research is not conclusive yet, it simply suggests something and more studies need to be done to confirm it. Doctors like Mark Fromer, an ophtamologist said it is still ok to take the aspirin. He works at Lenox Hospital and was not involved in the research itself. According to him the risks of getting macular degeneration after 15 years is still slight and there is no need to turn on the alarm.
The researchers who conducted the study admitted that regular eye exam can really be of help. For those who already have a family member with macular degeneration there chances are much higher. Heredity is also involved so one should always know his family history.