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 Calcium Supplements Possibly Linked To Macular Degeneration Risk

Seniors over 68 years of age who take daily calcium supplements may be at higher risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), according to a recent study in The Journal of the American Medical Association Ophthalmology.
AMD is a common eye condition and a leading cause of vision loss among people age 50 and older, according to the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. The condition first manifests as a blurred area near the center of one’s vision. In time—rapid in some patients, slow in others—the blurred area enlarges or creates blank spots. Objects may also become dimmer.
Seniors typically take calcium supplements to offset osteoporosis; halt heart disease and high blood pressure; and curb colorectal, kidney, and prostate cancers. One unintended consequence of these pills may be the eyes.
“High levels of calcium may not be the greatest thing for eye diseases,” says University of California at San Francisco undergraduate Caitlin Kakigi, first author of the study.
Using a subset of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), an American population-based survey, Kakigi and her group broke down 3,191 patients 40 years and older who used calcium supplementation into five dosage groups. Adults aged 68 years and older who took the highest level of calcium (800 mg) had nearly twice the risk of developing AMD, while adults younger than 68 did not show the same risks despite their calcium intake.
Kakigi cautions that because the study was based on a self-reported survey, a direct cause-and-effect relationship does not exist between high calcium levels and eye disease. Until a longitudinal study is performed, she suggests physicians consider not giving calcium tablets to patients who are at high risk of developing macular degeneration.
 
Jackie Oberst is Provider’s managing editor. Email her at joberst@providermagazine.com or follow her on Twitter, @ProviderMag.
 
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