Avastin is a drug used “off-label” as an ocular injection (drug injected into the eye) to slow the progression of vision loss. Avastin has been used since 2005 to treat retinal eye problems such as wet age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, macular edema (swelling of the retina), and retinal vein occlusion.
Avastin works as an anti-VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) drug to prevent cells from producing too much VEGF. Normally, VEGF is a protein produced by cells in your body to produce new blood vessels when your body needs them. Sometimes these cells produce too much VEGF, causing abnormal blood vessels to grow in your eye. These abnormal blood vessels can damage your eye and harm your vision, leading to low vision or blindness over time.
Avastin works to slow the progression of vision loss. It blocks VEGF, hindering the growth of abnormal blood vessels, and stops the development and leaking of fluid from abnormal blood vessels in the back of the eye.
Avastin treatment doesn’t take long. The process is as follows:
Avastin was FDA-approved to treat different types of cancer. Its use to treat eye problems is considered “off-label” use. The FDA allows “off-label” use as long as the doctors using it are well informed about the products and studies prove it is an effective treatment. Avastin has been effectively used as an off-label eye treatment since 2005.
Wet age-related macular degeneration results from abnormal blood vessels that form underneath the retina at the back of the eye. These new blood vessels leak fluid or blood and blur central vision. Vision loss may be rapid and severe.
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes. Diabetes causes abnormal glucose metabolism as a result of decreased levels of insulin or insulin resistance. Increased blood glucose levels are thought to have a structural and physiological effect on retinal capillaries (small blood vessels in the back of the eye), causing them to be both functionally and anatomically incompetent. As a result, diabetic retinopathy causes changes to the blood vessels in the retina. The blood vessels can swell, leak fluid, or bleed, leading to vision changes or blindness.
Avastin treatment may cause the following side effects:
Your eye doctor will discuss your treatment plan with you during your consultation. You may need to continue ocular injections with Avastin over many months to help slow vision loss from these eye diseases.