While there are many retinal diseases and issues, certain treatment options are more commonplace. A good example is intravitreal injections, which have emerged as the leading treatment for multiple conditions. Most often, these injections administer a type of drug called anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF). Injections are more effective than other treatments (such as eye drops) as they administer medication directly into the eye. They generally cause little or no pain or discomfort.
An Overview of Anti-VEGF Medications
Anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) medications have become the standard treatment for many retinal conditions. You may be more familiar with certain products regularly use: Avastin® (bevacizumab), Lucentis® (ranibizumab), and Eylea® (aflibercept).
Anti-VEGF medications are effective for slowing abnormal blood vessel growth or preventing blood vessels from leaking fluid in the eye. They are used to treat retinal and macular conditions such as:
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), specifically its more advanced, serious stage, known as wet, or exudative AMD
- Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR), the condition’s more advanced form.
- Central retinal artery and vein occlusions (CRAO and CRVO)
- Branch retinal artery and vein occlusions (BRAO and BRVO)
- Diabetic macular edema (DME), occurring when fluid or blood accumulates in the macula, the retina’s center.
One thing shared by the above retinal and macular conditions is the process of neovascularization, which involves new, malformed blood vessels growth in the retina. The new blood vessels are fragile and break easily, which can lead to fluid leakage and blood accumulating under the retina. But the application of anti-VEGF medications effectively inhibits those proteins responsible for the new blood vessel growth.
What Can I Expect With Anti-VEGF Injections?
If you require anti-VEGF medications, here is what you should know to prepare yourself for the injections.
- This in-office procedure takes about 10-15 minutes to perform.
- Generally, these injections will cause little to no discomfort or pain. Prior to the procedure, the retina specialist will apply anesthetizing drops to the eye, ensuring that you’ll be numb and free of pain when the injection is given.
- Your eyes are cleaned with an antiseptic to prevent bacterial infection.
- The retina specialist keeps your targeted eyelid open with their fingers or a speculum, a medical instrument that allows them to see inside hollow parts of your body.
- Once your eyelid is secured, you’ll be told to look in the opposite direction from where the needle is administered.
- The retina specialist uses a very thin needle to inject the medication into your sclera (the eye’s white part); you may feel a slight pressure.
While certain side effects may occur with eye injections, they’re usually temporary and can be treated with eye drops. The more common side effects may include:
- Pain or scratchy sensations
- Conjunctival hemorrhage, which is bleeding on the white of the eye
- Increased eye pressure
- Eye inflammation or bruising
Among the less common side effects are infection, bleeding, or redness in the eye,
retinal tears or detachment, lens damage, and cataract formation.
You may require repeat injections, possibly once a month, to maintain eye health and optimize vision, particularly for chronic conditions, like AMD and diabetic retinopathy. The retina specialist will discuss your long-term treatment options. Afterward, depending on the situation, you may experience vision improvement.
Schedule a Consultation for Injections in Utah
Injections are an effective treatment option, allowing more precise, safe administration of medications in your eye. Depending on your specific condition and health status, the retinal specialists at Retina Associates of Utah have the skill and experience to utilize this technique. If you have any questions, contact us for an appointment.