Anti-VEGF Treatment for Age-Related Macular Degeneration

What is anti-VEGF treatment?


Anti-VEGF treatment is a way to slow vision loss in people who have a condition called “wet” age related macular degeneration.

WHAT IS AGE-RELATED MACULAR DEGENERATION (AMD)?


Macular degeneration is a deterioration or breakdown of the macula. The macula is a small area in the retina at the back of the eye that allows you to see fine details clearly and perform activities such as reading and driving. When the macula does not function correctly, your central vision can be affected by blurriness, dark areas or distortion. Macular degeneration affects your ability to see near and far, and can make some activities—like threading a needle or reading—difficult or impossible.

WHAT CAUSES MACULAR DEGENERATION?


Many older people develop macular degeneration as part of the body’s natural aging process. There are different kinds of macular problems, but the most common is age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Exactly why it develops is not known, and no treatment has been uniformly effective. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe vision loss in Caucasians over 65.

The two most common types of AMD are dry” (atrophic) and wet” (exudative):


“Dry” macular degeneration (atrophic)
Most people have the dry” form of AMD. It is caused by aging and thinning of the tissues of the macula. Vision loss is usually gradual. “Wet” macular degeneration (exudative) The wet” form of macular degeneration accounts for about 10% of all AMD cases. It results when abnormal blood vessels form underneath the retina at the back of the eye. These new blood vessels leak fluid or blood and blur central vision. Vision loss may be rapid and severe.

HOW DOES ANTI-VEGF TREATMENT HELP SLOW VISION LOSS IN PEOPLE WITH WET AMD?


Researchers who study wet AMD have found that a certain chemical in your body is critical in causing abnormal blood vessels to grow under the retina. That chemical is called vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF. Recently, scientists have developed several new drugs (anti-VEGF) that can block the trouble-causing VEGF. Blocking VEGF reduces the growth of abnormal blood vessels, slows their leakage, and helps to slow vision loss.

WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT FROM ANTI-VEGF TREATMENT?


The anti-VEGF drug must be injected into your eye with a very fine needle. Your ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) will clean your eye to prevent infection and will administer an anesthetic to your eye to reduce pain. Usually, patients receive multiple anti-VEGF injections over the course of many months. As with any medical procedure, there is a small risk of complications following anti-VEGF treatment. Any complications that might occur usually result from the injection itself, which in rare circumstances can injure the eye’s lens or retina or lead to an infection. For most people, though, the benefit of the treatment outweighs the small risk of injection injury.

IS ANTI-VEGF TREATMENT RIGHT FOR YOU?


Your ophthalmologist will determine if the treatment is appropriate for you. Only patients with the wet form of AMD can benefit from it. In some cases, your ophthalmologist may recommend combining anti-VEGF treatment with other therapies. The treatment that’s right for you will depend on the specific condition of your macular degeneration. Anti-VEGF treatment is a step forward in the treatment of wet AMD because it targets the underlying cause of abnormal blood vessel growth. The treatment may offer new hope to thousands of people diagnosed with wet AMD.

© American Academy of Ophthalmology 2011

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