Why Your Eyes Hate Aspirin

Dr. Frank Shallenberger, MD

January 18, 2021

I used to be a supporter of the daily use of aspirin to prevent heart disease and strokes. But I changed my mind.

I changed it because the literature has become very clear in recent years. Despite what many docs still cling to, regular aspirin use does not prevent heart attacks.

Second, those who take aspirin and have a stroke die more often than those who don’t take it and have a stroke.

Third, it causes stomach ulcers in 13% of those using it without any warning symptoms. I have covered all of these studies in past issues of Second Opinion.

And now a new study shows that aspirin puts you at an increased risk of yet another problem – eye disease.

In this study, the researchers looked at 4,691 men and women 65 years or older. They randomly picked these people from seven European countries all the way from Norway in the north to Italy in the south.

They examined their maculas, and found that an amazing 36.4% showed early signs of macular degeneration. An additional 3.3% showed advanced changes.

They also found that most of these folks used aspirin: 41.2% used it at least once a month; 7% took it once a week; and 17% took it every day.

So What Effect Did All This Aspirin Use Have?

Those who took aspirin on a daily basis were 220% more likely to develop wet macular degeneration than those who only took it sporadically. And although only 17% of them took daily aspirin, those 17% comprised over 33% of the patients who developed late stage wet macular degeneration.

The researchers also found that those using daily aspirin were more likely to come down with wet macular degeneration at a younger age.

This is a very important discovery when you consider that wet macular degeneration is by far the worst kind to have. It is much more likely to cause blindness than the “dry” version. Interestingly enough, the risk of getting dry macular degeneration was not increased at all by using aspirin.

How Does Taking Aspirin on a Regular Basis Cause Wet Macular Degeneration?

It might be due to the fact that aspirin irreversibly inhibits two enzymes cyclooxygenase 1 (COX-1) and prostaglandin-endoperoxide synthetase 2 that are important for optimal circulation to the macula. These enzymes produce a prostaglandin molecule called prostacyclin.

Prostacylcin acts to increase circulation to the macula, and at the same time prevents the blood from clotting too easily. These actions would tend to prevent wet macular degeneration. But there is more to the story.

Another prostaglandin molecule, thromboxane, offsets prostacyclin. Thromboxane does the opposite. It decreases circulation, while increasing blood clotting.

So the authors speculate that regular aspirin use shifts the balance in many people toward an increase in thromboxane activity with a decrease in prostacyclin activity. This shift would produce the low oxygen levels and decreased circulation in the macula that causes wet macular degeneration.

So add wet macular degeneration to the list of why you should avoid taking aspirin on a regular basis.

Instead Do Something More Natural

Instead of taking aspirin every day, take fish oil. Fish oil thins the blood just like aspirin, but does it in a way that does not inhibit prostacyclin. That may be why fish-oil consumption has been shown to reduce the risk of macular degeneration, instead of increase it the way aspirin does.

You should also take a host of vitamins and herbs, including astaxanthin, bilberry, lutein, beta glucan, zeaxanthin, gingko biloba, and l-taurine. These can give you added protection against macular degeneration.


De Jong PTVM, et al. “Associations between aspirin use and aging macula disorder: The European eye study,” Ophthalmology, 2012; DOI: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2011.06.025.

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