Wet macular degeneration can be treated with painless anti-VEGF injections. These injections go directly into the eye to slow the production of blood vessels and prevent vision loss.
Macular degeneration, or age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is a
Dry AMD develops slowly over time. It occurs when vision-critical structures underneath the retina progressively deteriorate.
Wet AMD can be a more rapidly progressive condition. It occurs when abnormal blood vessels emerge from underneath the retina and bleed, leak fluid, and disrupt vision.
Injections of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) are the most common treatment for wet AMD. These injections can help prevent the overgrowth of new blood vessels and may prevent further vision loss.
What is the macula?
The macula is located at the center of the back of your eye. It’s part of your retina. Like the rest of your retina, it has a high concentration of photoreceptor cells. This allows the macula to detect light and send signals to your brain, which converts these signals into the images you see.
The macula is responsible for your central vision as well as the fine details you see directly in front of you. If the macula becomes damaged, it can cause your vision to be blurry and lack details.
If you have wet AMD, it means that abnormal blood vessels are expanding underneath the macula. These vessels can leak and bleed, causing damage to your central vision. Anti-VEGF injections can slow this process and may help prevent some vision loss.
Intravitreal injections are a treatment option for wet AMD. These painless injections are administered directly into the eye, into the clear, gelatinous area called the vitreous. The injections have a medication called anti-VEGF. VEGF is a substance in your eye that produces healthy blood vessels.
Anti-VEGF injections aren’t suitable for everyone with macular degeneration. They’re not effective for dry AMD. They’re also not recommended for people with advanced wet AMD who have lost the majority of their vision.
There are a few types of anti-VEGF medications. All these medications are administered as an injection to stop the growth of blood vessels. Their primary differences are the dosage and how often you’ll need to receive the injections. You and your doctor can talk about which medication might work best for you.
Anti-VEGF options include:
- Lucentis (ranibizumab): Lucentis was the first anti-VEGF medication approved to treat wet AMD.
- Eylea (aflibercept): Eylea is a longer lasting option.
- Beovu (brolucizumab): Beovu injections can last for as long as 3 months.
- Vabysmo (faricimab-svoa): Vabysmo is a new option for wet AMD that treats the condition in two different ways.
- Avastin (bevacizumab): Avastin was originally developed as a cancer treatment to destroy tumor blood vessels. It quickly became one of the early injectable treatments for wet AMD.
You can receive anti-VEGF injections in a hospital, vision center, or doctor’s office. Here is a general breakdown of the steps:
- Before receiving an anti-VEGF injection, an eye care professional will cleanse your eye with an antiseptic. They will also administer numbing eye drops so you don’t feel any pain during the procedure.
- Your eyelids will be held open with a device called a speculum.
- The eye care professional will ask you to look away from the syringe during the injection process. Injections only take a few seconds.
- Most people report that the injections are painless. In some cases, people experience minimal discomfort.
- Once the injection is over, the eye care professional will rinse the injection site with saline.
You’ll need to have injections administered on a regular schedule. The frequency depends on the exact type of anti-VEGF medication used for your treatment. For instance, you might receive injections every 4 weeks, every 8 weeks, or every 12 weeks.
Anti-VEGF injections don’t work for every case of AMD, and it may take time to find the right anti-VEGF injection for you. However, these injections are an effective treatment for many people with wet AMD.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, anti-VEGF injections improve vision in about 1 out of 3 people who get the injections. Additionally, they can stop vision loss from getting worse in 9 out of 10 people with wet macular degeneration.
Anti-VEGF injections are considered safe and effective. But like all medical treatments, there are some risks involved. Possible risks of anti-VEGF injections include:
- allergic reaction to the anesthetic or saline solution
- scratch to the eye
- dry eye
- itchy eyes
- eye pain
- eye redness
- infection (very rare)
You can manage most of these risks by telling your healthcare team right away if you notice anything unusual.
Depending on the side effects you have, your doctor can switch the anesthetic or saline solution for future injections, prescribe treatments to help soothe dry eyes, or take other steps to help reduce side effects.
If you experience any discomfort after an anti-VEGF injection, be sure to share this information with your doctor or healthcare team.
Wet AMD is an eye health condition where abnormal blood vessels expand underneath the macular region of the retina. These abnormal vessels can leak and bleed, causing damage to your central vision.
Injections of a type of medication called anti-VEGF are the primary treatment for wet AMD. These injections prevent the growth of new blood vessels as well as additional vision loss. They’re given on a regular schedule, often once every 4 to 8 weeks.
Anti-VEGF injections are generally safe and have very few side effects. If you do experience any side effects, it’s important to tell your doctor right away so they can be treated promptly. Your doctor can also reduce those risks in future injections.