Patients with age-related macular degeneration are at an increased risk for both ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, according to a study in the April 24 online version of Stroke.

In this study, researchers evaluated 12,216 individuals aged 45 to 64 years who were enrolled in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study. Overall, 591 participants were diagnosed with AMD (576 dry, 15 wet). After a mean follow-up of 13 years, 548 participants experienced cerebral infarctions, 57 suffered intracerebral hemorrhages and 14 had subarachnoid hemorrhages.

The researchers determined that participants with any form of AMD were approximately 50% more likely to have a stroke than those without evidence of macular disease.

To further complicate matters, one of the most successful treatment options for wet AMD––anti-VEGF therapy––might actually increase an individual’s risk for stroke.

“Recently, antivascular endothelial growth factor agents used in the treatment of neovascular age-related macular degeneration have been suggested to increase the risk of intracerebral hemorrhage,” the authors wrote. “Based on our findings, it appears that patients with [the eye disease] may already be at an increased risk of intracerebral hemorrhage and, thus, antivascular endothelial growth factor therapy could potentially increase this risk further.”

The authors suggested that additional research is required to confirm the potential relationship between anti-VEGF therapy and increased stroke risk.

Ikram MK, Mitchell P, Klein R, et al. Age-related macular degeneration and long-term risk of stroke subtypes. Stroke. 2012 Apr 24. [Epub ahead of print]