Trusty old aspirin, the pain reliever that has been in our medicine cabinets for years, is able to ward off many of the ailments that often plague us later in life. Deemed a wonder drug, studies show that taking a daily aspirin can lower the risk of cancer and heart disease. But should we really accept this notion at face value? Considering that research suggests that the cons may outweigh the pros in regards to aspirin’s potential effects on one’s vision, perhaps we should reevaluate the benefits of aspirin.
A recent European study found that daily aspirin (among older populations) may double the risk of the advanced form of age-related macular degeneration. Though researchers stress that more studies are needed, lead researcher Dr. Paulus de Jong says that the findings could be a cause for concern for millions of seniors who routinely take a daily aspirin for the management of other conditions.
“If future studies support our results, then recommendations on aspirin may need to be modified for patients with age-related macular degeneration,” says de Jong. “It’s possible that increased AMD risk may outweigh aspirin’s potential benefits for some patients, but we need to know more about the impacts of dose, length of use and other factors before we can say for certain, or make specific recommendation,” he adds.1
Since aspirin reduces inflammation and blood clots, it is common for doctors to prescribe it to those who have cardiovascular concerns. And because of this, aspirin can be a double edged sword when considering eye health. Researchers have cautioned that for people who have cardiovascular disease, the benefits of aspirin could outweigh the risks to visual health. After all, what good are healthy eyes to a cadaver?
However, de Jong does advise that those who already have early or late stage AMD not to take aspirin as a painkiller. “I would advise people with AMD who take small amounts of aspirin for primary prevention- this means having no past history of cardiac of vascular problems like stroke—to discuss with their doctor if it is wise to continue doing so,” he says.
While the study determined there is some correlation between aspirin use and AMD, no cause-and-effect relationship could be proven so far.
Of course, vision is secondary to overall health. And for those whose lives may be at risk by ceasing to take a daily aspirin, continued dosage is important. If you are concerned about your aspirin dosage, speak with a doctor. It should also be noted that you should never change medications without the direct consent of the prescribing doctor.