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Health & Medicine for Senior Citizens

Recent Studies Linking Aspirin and Age-Related Macular Degeneration Raises Interest in AMD Awareness Month

Five tips on how seniors can help protect their vision from the number one cause of blindness in older people - video on AMD below story

Feb. 20, 2013 – February is AMD Awareness Month and certainly much of the focus will be on two studies published in the last few months that have linked regular long-term aspirin use to neovascular age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is a leading cause of blindness in older people.

"Regular aspirin use was significantly associated with an increased incidence of neovascular AMD," according to the authors of the most recent study, which was published January 21 Online First by JAMA Internal Medicine, a JAMA Network publication.

Gerald Liew, Ph.D., of the University of Sydney, Australia, and colleagues examined whether regular aspirin use (defined as once or more per week in the past year) was associated with a higher risk of developing AMD by conducting a prospective analysis of data from an Australian study that included four examinations during a 15-year period. Of 2,389 participants, 257 individuals (10.8 percent) were regular aspirin users.


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After the 15-year follow-up, 63 individuals (24.5 percent) developed incident neovascular AMD, according to the results.

"The cumulative incidence of neovascular AMD among nonregular aspirin users was 0.8 percent at five years, 1.6 percent at 10 years, and 3.7 percent at 15 years; among regular aspirin users, the cumulative incidence was 1.9 percent at five years, 7 percent at 10 years and 9.3 percent at 15 years, respectively," the researchers report.

The earlier study, published in the December 19, 2012 issue of JAMA, had nearly 5,000 participants and found a small but statistically significant increase in the risk of neovascular age-related macular degeneration among those who reported regular aspirin use ten years prior.

Barbara E. K. Klein, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, and colleagues conducted the study.

There were 512 incident cases of early AMD and 117 incident cases of late AMD over the course of the study. The researchers found that regular use of aspirin use 10 years prior to the retinal examination was associated with late AMD (age- and sex-adjusted incidence, 1.8 percent for users vs. 1.0 percent for nonusers).

"Our findings are consistent with a small but statistically significant association between regular aspirin use and incidence of neovascular AMD. Additional replication is required to confirm our observations. If confirmed, defining the causal mechanisms may be important in developing methods to block this effect to prevent or retard the development of neovascular AMD in persons who use aspirin, especially to prevent CVD," the authors conclude.

>> Facts about AMD – National Eye Institute

Simple Tips to Help in Preventing AMD

By Dr. Matthew Alpert, AMD specialist and VSP optometrist

   ● Eating healthy and taking vitamins. Including foods and/or supplements in your diet that are high in xanthophylls, such as egg yolks, not only help protect the retina but also enhance its function.

   ● Avoiding blue light at night. Believe or not, blue light can be harmful to your health, as it actually reaches the back of your eyes. To protect your eyes and reduce your AMD risk, BluTech lenses filter out most blue light without altering your color vision.

   ● Getting an annual, comprehensive eye exam. Your eye doctor is one of your best defenses against AMD and a list of other degenerative diseases. Annual eye exams are a very important step in identifying signs and symptoms before they become serious.

   ● Testing yourself. You can actually test yourself at home for AMD with an Amsler Grid (even Betty White does it). If the lines on the grid become squiggly or wavy, make sure to call your optometrist.

   ● Always wearing sunglasses. Even in the winter, always wear sunglasses that block 100 percent of UVA/UVB rays when going outside.

AMD affects more than 20 million Americans ages 50 and older and is the leading cause of blindness for those who are 65 and older. The number of Americans affected by AMD has increased by 25 percent in the last decade, and while there is no cure for AMD, it is treatable and preventable – definitely a good reminder in light of the aspirin study.  

How macular pigment affects your vision. AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in the US affecting millions every year. You can be proactive in protecting and enhancing your central vision!


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