People who take medications to lower blood pressure may be raising their risk for developing early-stage, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), according to a recent study published by Ophthalmology.

Ronald Klein, MD, MPH, and fellow investigators performed a long-term, population-based cohort study, examining the medical records of nearly 5,000 people aged 43 to 86 years living in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. The Beaver Dam Eye Study was launched more than 20 years ago to collect data on age-related eye diseases, with eye exams performed every 5 years.

Among the study participants, 19.1% of those using vasodilator medication developed early-stage AMD, compared with an estimated 8.2% of persons not taking such drugs. Oral nitroglycerin use in particular was associated with increased risk of early AMD.

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The other class of antihypertensives strongly linked with AMD development was that of oral beta blockers. These agents were associated with a 71% increase in the risk of neovascular AMD, a more severe and vision-threatening form of the disease.

“As significant as these results may be, it’s important that they be replicated first, and if possible tested in a clinical-trials setting before changing anyone’s medication regimens,” cautioned study leader Klein in a statement issued by the American Academy of Ophthalmology.