A new study has found a slim link between daily aspirin intake and wet AMD. Photo: Steven Ferrucci, OD
Long-term aspirin use may increase patients’ risk for the development of wet age-related macular degeneration, according to a study in the December 19 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The report garnered national attention. However, the study had several limitations—not the least of which is that there was less than 1% difference in the incidence of wet AMD between patients on regular aspirin and those who didn’t take aspirin.

In this study, the researchers evaluated 4,926 patients between 43 and 86 years of age who were enrolled in the Beaver Dam Eye Study. During the examination process, the patients were asked whether they had used aspirin at least twice per week for more than three consecutive months.

After a mean follow-up period of nearly 15 years, 512 patients developed early AMD and 117 developed wet AMD. The researchers determined that 1.76% of patients who took aspirin regularly 10 years before undergoing retinal evaluation developed wet AMD vs. 1.03% of patients who had no history of routine aspirin use.

Further, they found no significant relationship between the amount of aspirin taken and the overall incidence of AMD. Interestingly, researchers found no association between regular aspirin use and the onset of dry AMD. 

The researchers acknowledge multiple study limitations, including insufficient data on total aspirin exposure as well as undocumented leukocyte counts and C-reactive protein levels at certain follow-up visits.

“One item we must consider is whether the higher incidence of neovascular AMD was caused by long-term aspirin use itself or by an underlying condition that aspirin therapy was being used to treat, such as carotid artery disease,” says Steven Ferrucci, OD, chief of optometry at the Sepulveda VA Ambulatory Care Center and Nursing Home in North Hills, Calif. “Overall, however, such results from one study likely will not change the way I practice when managing wet AMD patients who are on long-term aspirin therapy.”

Klein BE, Howard KP, Gangnon RE, et al. Long-term use of aspirin and age-related macular degeneration. JAMA. 2012 Dec 19;308(23):2469-24.