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Avastin eye treatment
Medically reviewed by Tina Patel, Contact Lens Optician at Feel Good Contacts
Avastin is the branded name of the drug ‘bevacizumab’. This drug treats retinal eye conditions, including diabetic eye disease, wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) etc.
- What is Avastin?
- How Avastin works as an eye treatment
- What conditions does Avastin help?
- What happens during Avastin treatment?
- How many Avastin injections do I need?
- What are the risks of Avastin treatment?
What is Avastin?
Avastin is an antiangiogenic drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat certain types of cancers. This drug was primarily used to only treat different types of cancer. Later, it started to be used as a treatment for some retinal eye conditions. Avastin is considered an ‘off-label’ drug when used as a treatment for eye conditions; an off-label drug refers to an approved drug, used for unapproved medical conditions. So, whilst Avastin was initially developed for cancer treatment, it can also be used by your healthcare provider to treat certain eye conditions.
How Avastin works as an eye treatment
Avastin is a growth inhibitor drug that blocks the abnormal expansion/ growth of blood vessels in the back of the eye. This abnormal growth can lead to blood vessel leakage, causing vision loss.
To treat retinal eye conditions, Avastin is injected into the eye (intravitreal injection) to slow down vision loss. For the blood vessels to experience abnormal growth, a body chemical called VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) is required. Injection of Avastin helps block or slow down VEGF. Due to its blocking/slowing functionality, Avastin is also known as anti-VEGF drugs.
What conditions does Avastin help?
Avastin injection, or intravitreal injection, is used for the following eye conditions:
- Retinal vein occlusion – this condition includes blood clot forming a blockage or obstruction of one (or several) of the branches of the retinal vein
- Diabetic retinopathy – an eye condition that can cause vision loss in the people who have diabetes
- Wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) - in this eye condition, abnormal blood vessels grow in the eye and leak below the macula, resulting in permanent vision loss
- Macular edema – this eye condition causes swelling at the back of the eye
- Choroidal neovascularization – unwanted, new blood vessels that grow beneath the retina, causing vision loss
What happens during Avastin treatment?
In this treatment, your ophthalmologist cleans your eye with an antiseptic to prevent any eye infections, then numbs your eye with a medicine. Numbing helps to block the pain.
Once your eye is ready, your doctor will use a special instrument to hold your eye open. Avastin is then injected directly into your eye through the white part via a thin needle. The patient is unable to see the needle and will not experience any pain due to the numbing medicine. Post injection, the anaesthetic and antiseptic will be washed out of the eye. You may or may not be given an eye patch.
In some scenarios and conditions, your ophthalmologist might combine some other treatment with Avastin treatment to save your vision.
How many Avastin injections do I need?
The number and frequency of Avastin injections will depend on your eye condition. You might need injections at regular intervals, such as every four to six weeks. Your ophthalmologist will suggest how frequently and how long you will need to receive the injection.
What are the risks of Avastin treatment?
Similar to every other treatment, Avastin treatment also has its side effects. Some of the common side effects are listed below:
- Dry or itchy eye
- Eye discomfort
- Temporary blurry vision
- Eye redness
Sometimes Avastin injection can cause the below problems, however, these problems are very rare.
- Eye pain
- Sensitivity to light
- Swelling inside the eye
- Eye infection
You might feel slight discomfort for 24 hours after the injection, such as something stuck in the eye, mild eye pain or light sensitivity. If you experience any of the above side effects and they last longer, you should consult your ophthalmologist right away.
If your eyes are still sore, you can get your ophthalmologist-recommended eye drops that can help soothe your eyes.
You should ask a friend or family to drive you to the appointment and back home. Wearing sunglasses is a good option to protect your eyes from UV damage, particularly if you feel sensitive to bright lights. Once you get home, rest your eyes and be sure to follow advice given by your healthcare provider.