Avastin, or bevacizumab, is a prescription drug that treats internal eye bleeding by limiting the development of abnormal blood vessels.
It is approved to treat several eye conditions, including retinal vein occlusion, macular edema, age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.
Avastin does not restore lost sight but does slow down the rate of vision loss.
Avastin, or bevacizumab, is a prescription drug that treats various eye diseases. Sometimes, abnormal blood vessels start to grow at the back of the eye. These blood vessels have thin walls that are easy to tear. When stretched, they rupture and bleed, leading to vision loss.
The work of Avastin is to block the growth and bleeding of abnormal blood vessels. It does this by blocking a chemical called VEGF, which is responsible for developing abnormal blood vessels. Any drug that blocks VEGF is called anti-VEGF.
Avastin does not restore lost sight, but it helps prevent or slow down the rate of vision loss.
Eye Conditions Treated with Avastin
Avastin is approved to treat several eye conditions:
- Retinal vein occlusion
- Macular edema (swelling of the retina)
- Age-related macular degeneration
- Diabetic retinopathy
Retinal Vein Occlusion
Retinal vin occlusion occurs because of a blockage of the veins that convey blood from the retina. The blockage can happen due to blood clots or hardening of the veins. This problem is common in older adults and people with diabetes, cholesterol, high blood pressure and eye conditions like glaucoma.
Macular edema occurs when fluid builds up in the central part of the retina, an area called the macula. This part is responsible for a clear straight-ahead vision. But once filled with fluid, it swells and distorts your sight. This condition occurs when there’s a leakage in the nearby blood vessel.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
About 11 million people in the U.S have age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is a vision loss issue that comes with age and is more common in people over 60 years.
It occurs when the retina starts to wear down. Vision loss is gradual, and someone may not notice the decline until it is too late for treatment.
AMD can either be wet or dry. Wet macular degeneration is less common, accounting for only 10 percent of all cases. But it is more severe, with a 90-percent chance of leading to legal blindness. Avastin treats wet age-related macular degeneration.
This condition occurs due to complications of diabetes type 1 or type 2. Too much blood sugar causes a blockage of tiny blood vessels supplying blood to the retina. Then, new blood vessels develop to replace the blocked ones. But the new blood vessels are usually weak. They start to leak blood onto the retina, leading to vision loss.
How Avastin Therapy Works
Your ophthalmologist will give you an appointment for the treatment. This treatment may continue for several months. Each session will involve the following:
- Eye examination to assess the condition or progress
- Administering eye anesthesia to numb your eye and prevent pain
- Using antiseptic to clean your eye and avoid infection
- Using a special tool to keep your eye open for the procedure
- Giving you an Avastin injection using a very thin needle through the white section of your eye
During the injection, you will not feel pain. Your doctor will clean up the anesthesia and antiseptic afterward. Then you may or may not get an eye patch.
After the treatment, you may consider wearing sunglasses if you are sensitive to light. Plus, it is to have someone drive you home. If your eye feels uncomfortable, use artificial tears. Try to rest your eyes every chance you get.
In most cases, your doctor will give you one injection per month for three months. Once the condition is under control, the frequency of injections will reduce.
Even though Avastin is intended to prevent further vision loss, some reports show that it can improve visual acuity. Research funded by National Eye Institute found that Avastin had the same effectiveness as a more expensive drug called Eylea.
People with retinal vein occlusion who received six months of Avastin injection improved visual acuity from 20/100 to 20/40.
Depending on individual cases and the cause of vision loss, Avastin may temporarily help improve vision acuity.
Complications & Side Effects
Even though Avastin is a safe drug, sometimes it can have adverse effects depending on individual cases. Injection with Avastin can lead to the following side effects:
- Eye discomfort
- Itchy and dry eyes
- Eye redness
- Temporary blurry vision
- Floaters (small circles or cobwebs that appear in your field of vision)
- The feeling of a foreign object in your eye
In rare cases, injection with Avastin can cause severe complications. Among them are:
- Eye pain
- Eye infection
- Swelling in the eye
- Detached retina (the retina is raised up)
- Cataracts (the lens become cloudy)
How long does Avastin work in the eye?
After injection with Avastin, you may start noticing vision improvement after one month. This improvement will wear off eventually, and you’ll need another injection. Generally, you should receive an Avastin injection once a month. But once the condition is under control, the frequency can reduce.
What are the side effects of Avastin eye injections?
Avastin’s side effects include eye redness, itchy eye, and dry eyes. After injection, you may feel like you have something in your eye. You may also experience temporary blurry vision.
Does Avastin injection improve vision?
The purpose of Avastin injection is to prevent vision loss. But many people report vision improvement after receiving the injection. This improvement is usually temporary, and it requires one to get more injections to regain it. However, Avastin doesn’t repair existing vision impairments.
What is Avastin? (May 2022). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Retino Vein Occlusion. MedlinePlus.
Macular Edema. (July 2019). National Eye Institute.
Age-related Macular degeneration: Facts and Figures. (July 2021). Bright Focus Foundation.
Diabetic Retinopathy. (June 2021). Mayo Clinic.
Avastin Injection Treatment. Eastern Suburbs Eye Specialists.
Avastin as effective as Eylea for treating central retinal vein occlusion. (May 2017). National Eye Institute.
Last Updated April 27, 2022
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