Definition: Vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF, is a chemical in your body that causes the growth of abnormal blood vessels. The abnormal blood vessels leak under the retina resulting in blurry or distorted vision. Anti-VEGF medication treatments block the future growth of the abnormal blood vessels as well as slows their leakage, minimizing vision loss, and in some cases, improving vision.
The medication must be injected directly into the eye. Your ophthalmologist will numb and clean around your eye prior to the injection. After your injection you may notice black floaters in your vision, these will dissipate within a few days, as they are simply tiny air bubbles from the syringe. Patients usually require more than one injection of Anti-VEGF treatment, which will be left up to the discretion of the ophthalmologist and yourself.
Currently there are two types of Anti-VEGF treatments used to treat retinal diseases
Avastin, an Anti-VEGF treatment, is used off-label and injected into the eye to treat the growth and leakage of abnormal blood vessels. Off-label means it was produced for a purpose other than injecting into the eye. Avastin was originally created to treat colorectal cancer, which also generates abnormal blood vessels.
Researches originally believed the molecule of this medication would be too large to penetrate the retina, and therefore wouldn’t have an impact on vision. It wasn’t until after Lucentis was created that a physician in Florida began injecting Avastin, and discovered positive results.
Patients treated with Avastin will receive one injection and return in 4-6 weeks, thus allowing time for the medication to take effect. At the following visit, your ophthalmologist will examine your retina for changes and discuss the necessity of a second injection.
Lucentis, another Anti-VEGF medication, is also injected into the eye to treat the growth and leakage of abnormal blood vessels. Lucentis is a smaller piece of the same molecule that makes up Avastin, so it may penetrate the retina better. Lucentis was created for the purpose of injecting into the eye, and therefore believed to work slightly better than Avastin.
Patients receiving Lucentis will get their first injection usually the same day their ophthalmologist discovers the need for it, and will return in one month, for the next three months, to repeat injections. After the first three injections, the patient will continue to return once a month until the ophthalmologist decides another injection is necessary, or the first series was successful enough to spread out the visits.