Daily Aspirin Use Linked to Blindness via Wet Macular Degeneration in the Elderly
Researchers discovered that daily aspirin use is linked to wet macular degeneration related blindness in approximately four percent of an aspirin using population. While the benefits of daily aspirin use toward reducing the risks of heart disease and stroke currently outweighs the risk of developing blindness through wet macular degeneration, additional research is needed to evaluate the relationship between blindness and aspirin use in the elderly.
In a recent issue of the journal Ophthalmology, researchers mined through the medical records of approximately 4,700 medical patients over the age of 65. Out of the 4,700 patients, 839 were taking aspirin on a daily basis to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Of the 839 patients taking aspirin, thirty-six had an advanced form of macular degeneration known as wet macular degeneration.
Wet Macular Degeneration
Wet macular degeneration is a chronic eye disease responsible for blindness in the center of your field of vision. Wet macular degeneration gets its name from leaking blood vessels that causes swelling that affects the macula in the center of the retina.
Wet macular degeneration is one of two types of age-related blindness. The other type is dry macular degeneration, which is more common and less severe. Wet macular degeneration almost always begins as dry macular degeneration. The causes of the development of wet macular degeneration currently remains unclear.
There are two types of wet macular degeneration.
The first type is vision loss due to abnormal blood vessel growth from a layer of blood vessels between the retina and the sclera. These blood vessels eventually begin to leak fluid or blood that interferes with the retina and causes your vision to blur.
The second type of wet macular degeneration is called “retinal pigment epithelial detachment” which is a buildup of fluid between the choroid - a layer of blood vessels between the retina and the sclera - and a thin cell layer called the retinal pigment epithelium, which leads to detachment between the tissues.
Symptoms of Wet Macular Degeneration
• An abrupt onset
• A rapid deterioration of vision
• Decreased central vision
• Decreased intensity or brightness of colors
• A well-defined blurry or blind spot in your field of vision
• Hallucinations of geometric shapes, animals or people (in cases of advanced macular degeneration).
• Visual distortions, such as straight lines appearing wavy or crooked, common straight-sided objects appearing lopsided , or objects appearing smaller or farther away than they really are.
For more information about six vision changes that come with aging and eye disease go to: Six Vision Changes That Come with Aging.
Treatment for Wet Macular Degeneration
The treatment for wet macular degeneration is focused on stopping the progression of the disease. Three treatment methods include medications to stop the growth of the abnormal blood vessels; using a laser to destroy the abnormal blood vessels; and, using photodynamic therapy which is a special therapy using light to active medication that is injected into your eye.
Digging a little deeper into the medical records of the patients who were not daily users of aspirin, but still taking aspirin, they found that the incidence of wet macular degeneration dropped to two percent and that it did not appear to be associated with the more common dry macular degeneration. While the study does not show a direct causal relationship between aspirin use and blindness, the researchers believe that aspirin may somehow heighten the risk of wet macular degeneration development. However, for patients with heart disease, the researchers say that the risk does not outweigh the benefit of aspirin toward treating cardiovascular disease and that additional studies are needed to learn more about the connection between daily aspirin use and wet macular degeneration.
Source: “Associations between Aspirin Use and Aging Macula Disorder” Ophthalmology http://www.ophsource.org/periodicals/ophtha/article/S0161-6420(11)00568-9/abstract