Researchers have found that a naturally produced substance called vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF, is critical in causing abnormal blood vessels to grow under the retina. Scientists have developed several new drugs that can block the trouble-causing VEGF known as “anti-VEGF” drugs. They help block abnormal blood vessel growth, slow their leakage, and help reduce vision loss.
The anti-VEGF medications, Avastin and Lucentis, are commonly used for a condition known as “wet” age-related macular degeneration (AMD), in which abnormal blood vessels grow underneath the retina. These unhealthy vessels leak blood and fluid that can swell and scar the macula (the central part of the retina), and vision loss may be rapid and severe.
Since anti-VEGF therapies are very effective in slowing vascular leakage and preventing vision loss associated with wet AMD, ophthalmologists are using them to treat other macular disorders. If your ophthalmologist has diagnosed you with diabetic retinopathy, retinal vein occlusion, or other condition, you may benefit from anti-VEGF treatment alone or in combination with other treatment modalities such as laser photocoagulation.
Treatment with the anti-VEGF drug is performed by injecting the medicine with a very fine needle into the central eye cavity, the vitreous humor. Your ophthalmologist will sterilize your eye to prevent infection and will anesthetize your eye to eliminate pain. With AMD, patients often receive multiple anti-VEGF injections over the course of many months. With other conditions, the treatment is often given less frequently. The procedure is performed in the office, takes a few minutes, and is safe and painless with very low risk of complications.