There are currently no treatments for macular degeneration that completely cure the disease or even stop its progression. Research in recent years has discovered various ways to slow inevitable vision loss and, although rarely, improve vision in particular areas. Several types of treatment include laser treatment, combinations of medicines, and injection. Concerns about injections for macular degeneration being painful should be eased since they are regarded as straightforward and painless. Several injection-based treatments are detailed below.
Visudyne drug treatment is a photodynamic therapy that was the first drug therapy ever approved for the treatment of the wet form of macular degeneration. It is designated exclusively for people who have what is called a “predominantly classic” growth pattern of new blood vessels directly under the retina. An area of the arm is numbed with a painkiller after which the drug is delivered via a painless injection. Once the drug reaches the newly growing blood vessels under the retina, a low-energy laser beam is shone into the eye to activate the medication. Upon activation, Visudyne creates a chemical reaction that extinguishes unwanted blood vessels in the eye. Both the injection and the laser are considered virtually painless.
Visudyne diminishes the symptoms of wet macular degeneration and slows down the development of legal blindness in many patients. This laser-activated drug can also be administered along with other treatments, including Lucentis or Avastin.
Lucentis is actually an altered form of the colorectal cancer treatment drug Avastin. Lucentis has more recently been FDA approved as a way to treat advanced stages of the wet form of macular degeneration. In advanced stages of macular degeneration, there is an overgrowth of abnormal blood vessels triggered by a compound called vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF for short. The way Lucentis functions is by blocking VEGF proteins and thus preventing them from growing unnecessary blood vessels in the retina.
Most of the research surrounding Lucentis shows that it has a mostly positive effect. It was beneficial in improving, or at least stabilizing, the vision of nearly all of the people who took it. By limiting VEGF, many Lucentis users experienced improvements in vision, whereas the majority of other treatments simply stop macular degeneration from getting worse.
The way Lucentis is given is through an injection directly into the eye at monthly intervals (or as directed by your retinal specialist). Although the actual injection is considered to be painless, there have been scenarios were adverse reactions took place, such as eye inflammation, elevated eye pressure, and cataracts due to trauma. Continuing studies are required in order to fully explain the implications and side effects of taking Lucentis as an eye injection, but it is considered very safe and effective.
Macugen and Eylea, like Lucentis, are other forms of eye injection treatment. They both act similarly in that they attempt to stop VEGF from creating more hazardous blood vessels in the retina. Whereas Macugen is given every six weeks, Eylea is only needed once every other month (at the discretion of your doctor). Have you experienced any of the above procedures? Did they work for you?
Dr. Travis Zigler
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