What Patients Should Know About Intravitreal Injections
Intravitreal injections are one of the most standard treatments for a wide variety of retinal conditions. In this procedure, medication is administered directly into the vitreous liquid that fills the ocular sphere. While the idea of having eye injections might be daunting, this vision-saving procedure isn’t as scary as it sounds.
The most common type of medication administered via intravitreal injection is anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) medications. This class of medications is typically recommended for retinal conditions that feature abnormal neovascularization or vascular leakage. This process is spurred on by a protein known as a vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).
As the name suggests, anti-VEGF medications work by inhibiting this protein and preventing abnormal neovascularization and vascular leakage in the retina and vitreous. The most widely used anti-VEGF medications in retina care are Avastin (Bevacizumab), Eylea (Aflibercept), and Lucentis (Ranibizumab).
When Are Anti-VEGF Injections Recommended?
Anti-VEGF medications are often used to treat retinal conditions that affect the retinal vasculature, including:
- Wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
- Proliferative diabetic retinopathy
- Retinal vein occlusions
Although these conditions differ from each other, they all share the pathology of abnormal leakage or neovascularization involving the retina.
Intravitreal Injections: What to Expect
It’s not surprising that the idea of eye injections makes most patients nervous. However, the worst part of intravitreal injections is usually the anticipation. The overwhelming majority of patients have very little pain or discomfort, if any, during the procedure.
Injections are performed in-office and generally take 15 minutes or less to complete. Before starting, your doctor will first clean your eye with antiseptic and use anesthetizing eye drops to numb the eye. To prevent the eyelid from closing, your doctor may use a speculum to hold the eyelid in place. You will then be instructed to look in the opposite direction. Using a very fine needle, your doctor will inject the medication directly into the sclera (the white part of the eye). You may feel slight pressure near the injection site.
Afterward, the recovery process is typically very minimal. Minor irritation, as well as the occasional spot of blood, is normal. These symptoms generally clear up within a few days. However, it’s very important to not touch your eye after undergoing intravitreal injections, as this can lead to a bacterial infection.