Study: Regular aspirin use may raise risk of eye disorder

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NEW YORK -- Older adults who use aspirin regularly for 10 years or more may have an increased risk of developing an age-related eye disorder that can lead to vision loss, a study found.

The risk of having wet age-related macular degeneration was about twice as high for those who regularly took aspirin a decade before researchers detected it in an eye exam compared with those who didn't take the medicine, according to research Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

About 19 percent of U.S. adults take aspirin regularly for pain, arthritis and to prevent heart attacks, the authors wrote. People shouldn't stop taking the medication because its benefits are well known, said lead author Barbara Klein. Instead, more studies are needed to understand how aspirin may contribute to the eye disorder, she said.

"There are a lot of people who take aspirin now for cardio-protective reasons," Dr. Klein, a professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, said in a phone interview. "Should this influence their taking this medicine to save their life? No, don't stop."

Macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss in people older than 60, according to the National Institutes of Health. It affects the part of the eye that allows people to see fine details and can lead to blindness. Treatment can slow down vision loss but not restore it.

About 9.1 million people in the United States older than 40 suffer from the condition, according to the Macular Degeneration Association. About 90 percent have the "dry" type, where vision slowly becomes blurry. The rest have the "wet" type, where new blood vessels grow under the retina and leak fluid or blood. The wet type accounts for all blindness from the disease, the Sarasota, Fla.-based group said.

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