Causes Of Blindness? Could it be the aspirin you are taking?

Aspirin is included in a class of drugs called salicylates, and it is used to reduce fever, inflammation and pain in the body. Doctors also sometimes prescribe aspirin as a blood thinning agent to prevent angina, heart attack and stroke. Use of aspirin is widespread in the United States. In fact, almost 20 percent of Americans report regular consumption.

While aspirin does appear to have benefit for certain health problems, due to recent studies, ophthalmologists have become concerned about aspirin use in patients who suffer from age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Millions of Americans have developed macular degeneration which affects central vision by destroying cells in the macula of the eye. There are two types of AMD dry and wet, with the dry version being more common and the wet version more threatening to vision. For Americans over 60 years of age, AMD is the main cause of vision loss.

A study published in Ophthalmology investigated the link between use of aspirin and AMD. Researchers looked at data from roughly 4,700 Europeans over the age of 65. 839 subjects were using aspirin daily, and 36 of these were afflicted with wet macular degeneration, which converts to roughly 4 out of every 100 subjects.

In looking at subjects who were not using aspirin daily, the incidence of wet macular degeneration dropped to 2 out of every 100 subjects. Researchers determined that the link between aspirin use and macular degeneration only appeared with the wet form and not the dry form of the disease. Further, it was concluded that aspirin was not the cause, but did appear to worsen the disease.

Another study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in December of 2012 looked at long-term aspirin use and its effect on AMD. Results from a longitudinal study called The Beaver Dam Eye Study were examined, with 4926 participants from Wisconsin who were 43 to 86 years of age at the start of the study. Subjects were examined once every five years over a twenty-year period.

During the course of the research, subjects were asked about aspirin use, specifically, whether they had consumed aspirin more than once a week for three months or longer. Development of AMD - early AMD, late AMD and two subtypes of late AMD (neovascular AMD and pure geographic atrophy) - was measured.

512 cases of early AMD and 117 cases of late AMD developed in subjects over the study period.

Researchers found that regular aspirin use for ten years before retinal examination was linked to the development of late AMD. In particular, a significant link to one subtype of late AMD was found - the neovascular subtype. There was no significant link to the other subtype of late AMD or to early AMD.

More studies are needed to determine exactly how aspirin affects macular degeneration and to hopefully find a way to retain cardiovascular benefits to patients while lowering chances for vision loss. In the meantime, there are natural alternatives for patients who use aspirin on a daily basis for thinning the blood:

Nattokinase This is an enzyme that breaks down fibrin - a blood protein that produces long, sticky strands and clots - typically inhibited by the enzyme plasmin. With age, plasmin production is lowered, which causes a buildup of fibrin.

Nattokinase has performed well in both animal and human studies in the prevention of abnormal blood coagulation and dissolution of existing clots. Research has shown that it is as effective as certain pharmaceuticals, and it lasts longer without over-thinning the blood.

Fish oil High-quality omega-3 oils from certain types of fish have been shown to reduce inflammation and cholesterol in the body, and it may help in the prevention of blood clots.

Remember, it is always important to check with your health care provider prior to beginning a supplementary regimen.