The progressive eye disease, age related macular degeneration, or AMD for short, doubles the risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke, reveals research published ahead of print in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.
AMD affects the centre of the retina (macula) at the back of the eye, which is used for fine central vision tasks, such as reading and driving.
AMD is most common in the elderly, among whom it is a major cause of untreatable blindness in developed countries.
The Australian researchers assessed the general and eye health of over 3600 people, all of whom were aged 49 years and above in 1992-4 at the start of the study. Some 2335 people were re-examined five years later, and 1952 were examined again 10 years later. The examinations included physical checks as well as photographs of the retina.
Deaths, and their causes, among the participants were tracked against entries made to the national register. Among people under the age of 75 at the start of the study, early AMD was associated with a doubling in the risks of dying from a heart attack or stroke within the next decade.
And those with late stage disease at the start of the study had five times the risk of dying from a heart attack, and 10 times the risk of dying from a stroke.
Their findings could have important implications for treatment say the authors, because there are some concerns that current treatments for AMD might increase stroke risk.
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