Macular Degeneration Injections

Do you have wet age-related macular degeneration? Is it threatening your vision? If you answered “Yes” to these questions, chances are that your doctor has recommended macular degeneration injections.

In this article, we will answer questions you may have about macular degeneration injections. But first, a word about wet age-related macular degeneration.

What is wet age-related macular degeneration?

Wet macular degeneration is a disorder that occurs when the macula, the part of the eye that is responsible for your central vision becomes damaged. This occurs because abnormal blood vessels develop under your macula, leading to a buildup of fluid and blood. This buildup of fluid and blood causes damage to your macula. The chemical vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is responsible for this buildup.

How do the injections treat wet macular degeneration?

Anti-VEGF medications are injected into your eye. These medications attack VEGF molecules, thus decreasing the growth of abnormal blood vessels and the buildup of fluid and blood under your macula.

How effective are these injections?

Compared to prior therapies for wet macular degeneration, macular degeneration injections are quite effective. The injections help stabilize and may even improve your vision!

Research has shown that after five years, almost 50% of individuals taking the injections had 20/40 vision (vision required to legally drive) or better.

What injections are used?

There are 3 different types of anti-VEGF injections. These are:

  • Ranibizumab (Lucentis)
  • Bevacizumab (Avastin)
  • Aflibercept (Eylea)

How are these injections different?

All 3 injections are equally effective in treating wet AMD. In terms of FDA approval, Lucentis (made by Genentech/Novartis) and Eylea (made by Regeneron/Bayer) have received FDA approval. On the other hand, Avastin (also made by Genentech) has not been approved by the FDA (as Genentech has not submitted the injection to the FDA for approval).

The main difference between these injections is their cost. Avastin costs only $50 per treatment, while Lucentis and Eylea cost $2,000 and $1, 800 respectively per treatment.

What can you expect during treatment?

Your doctor will perform the treatment in an examining room under sterile conditions. A topical anesthetic like the ComfortPack will be applied to your eye so you don’t feel pain on the surface of your eye. After this, your doctor will place a speculum (adevice that keeps your eyelids open) on your eye.

To ensure your eye is sterile, your doctor will flood your eye with a povidone-iodine solution to clean your eyelids and eyelashes. Finally, the doctor will inject the anti-VEGF- this takes only a few seconds, and the needle used is small. After this, he/she will use a sterile cotton tip to stop any bleeding. The entire procedure takes less than 5 minutes.

After the procedure, your doctor will prescribe topical antibiotics to prevent infection.

What are the side effects of these injections?

The side effects that could occur are largely due to having your eye injected. These side effects include conjunctival hemorrhage, floaters, high eye pressure, infection, eye pain and inflammation of the eye.

How often do you get these injections? 

To begin with, your doctor will typically give you three monthly injections, then evaluate to see if the injections can be spaced out more. On average, you can expect to get six to eight injections a year.