Blood Pressure Meds Linked to Increased AMD Risk

June 06, 2014

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health have determined that people taking commonly prescribed blood-pressure medications — including drugs that open and relax blood vessels and regulate heart rhythm — appear to be at increased risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The findings are based on an analysis of data from a long-term study of approximately 5,000 residents of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, funded by the National Eye Institute. Results of the analysis were published in Ophthalmology.

While the association between some blood-pressure medications and the risk of developing AMD appears to be significant, Ronald Klein, M.D., M.P.H., the study’s lead investigator, says that the reason for the increased risk is not clear. The analysis does not reveal whether the drugs, blood pressure or other factors not included in the study are causing the increased risk. He adds that additional human research is needed to replicate the findings and potentially identify the underlying causes of the association. Previous studies of the link between high blood pressure and AMD were inconclusive.

Dr. Klein emphasized that, because the findings may be due to chance and have not been replicated, people using blood-pressure medications should not discontinue using them. Such drugs are critical to helping prevent strokes, heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems.

In addition to age and smoking, certain genetic variations can also increase AMD risk, but they were not taken into account in the study.

“AMD and other diseases of aging are very complex and involve a number of genetic and lifestyle factors,” says Stephen Rose, Ph.D., chief research officer, Foundation Fighting Blindness. “While we are learning more about these conditions and the factors that cause them all the time, there is still much that we don’t know yet. However, this study is an important step forward for understanding AMD.”