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Study Linking Aspiring and Vision Loss In Older Adults Questioned

A new study linking regular aspirin use and age-related vision loss has come under fire by some doctors, who say it jumps to conclusions. 

The Australian based study, published online January 21 in JAMA Internal Medicine, found one aspirin taken every week led to the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The prospective population-based cohort study followed nearly 2,400 people 45 years and older, over the course of 15 years.

Of the 2,400 participants surveyed in the Blue Mountains region of Australia, nearly 11 percent were identified as regular aspirin users and 24 percent developed neovascular wet AMD, the most severe type of vision loss which occurs in approximately 10 percent of all AMD cases.

The findings revealed regular aspirin users had a cumulative risk of 9.3%, over 15 years, of developing wet AMD, while non-users only had a 3% risk. The study also accounted for age, sex, weight, blood-pressure, and history of smoking and heart disease. Even after adjusting for those risk factors, researchers still found a heightened risk with taking aspirin.

Researchers embarked on the study as a follow-up to the findings of a 2011 European study which found seniors who took a daily aspirin were twice as likely to develop vision loss than those who did not.

Some Experts Wary of the Study Findings

Doctors Sanjay Kaul and George A. Diamond, co-authors of a commentary based on the Australian study also published in JAMA Internal Medicine, believe the study does not offer enough evidence to support the claim that aspirin leads to vision loss, especially considering aspirin is commonly used to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

The doctors feel the study was limited and was not convincing enough to force health care professionals to alter their prescribing habits for aspirin, especially when considering its potential benefits for some patients.

In spite of skepticism surrounding the findings of the new research, another recent study also found a link between regular aspirin use and an increased risk of vision problems. The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in December, found users with more than 10 years of aspirin use had a higher risk of developing the eye disease.

Experts advise doctors, when deciding to prescribe aspirin or not, to weigh the benefits against the risks and consider a patients medical history before deciding.

More than 100 billion aspirin tablets are consumed every year and nearly 43 million Americans use aspirin every day or every other day. Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in elderly people, who also use aspirin at a higher rate than those younger than 65 years of age.

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