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Eye disease "increases death risk"

People suffering from the eye disease age-related macular degeneration (AMD) have a much higher risk of death due to heart attacks or strokes, new research suggests.

AMD is the leading cause of sight loss in the UK and reduces vision by destroying the central region of the retina.

A study in the British Journal of Ophthalmology (BJO) found patients under the age of 75 with AMD have double the risk of dying from a heart attack within the next decade.

The experts from the University of Sydney also looked at medications for AMD, such as Macugen and Lucentis, and found that in some cases they can actually increase the death rate.

The treatments work by targeting vascular endothelial growth factor VEGF, a protein that helps the formation of new blood vessels.

The drugs inhibit the growth of these blood vessels, which in people with AMD tend to leak fluid under the retina.

The researchers said: "With the increasing availability of anti-VEGF therapy, which some reports suggest may increase cardiovascular risk, our results suggest that individuals with a high cardiovascular risk profile may potentially need to be monitored closely if receiving anti-VEGF therapy.

"Nonetheless, more studies confirming that a link exists between AMD and cardiovascular events would be needed before such recommendations can be made."


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