Although there are currently no medications available to manage dry macular degeneration, NYU Langone ophthalmologists can prescribe medications to help prevent the wet form of macular degeneration from progressing.
These medications are given as intravitreal injections, which means they are injected into the eye. They are so effective that, in many people, some vision can be restored after consistent treatment.
In wet macular degeneration, abnormal blood vessels grow underneath the macula, the part of the eye’s retina that enables you to see objects directly in front of you. These vessels leak blood and fluid into the retina, preventing it from functioning properly.
Left untreated, this condition can lead to scarring of the macula, resulting in permanent vision loss. However, if medication helps the blood vessels stop leaking, the progression of the disease may be halted.
The goal of treatment is to catch any changes in your condition early, control the disease, and protect your vision as much as possible.
A new class of medications is very effective in stopping the growth of new abnormal blood vessels in the eye. These medications, called, anti-vascular endothelial growth facto therapy, block the growth signals—known as vascular endothelial growth factors—that the body sends to generate new blood vessels. The medication shrinks blood vessels and causes the fluid underneath the retina to be absorbed. This enables retinal cells to regain some function.
Before the medication is administered, your doctor gives you drops to numb the eye, as well as an antiseptic wash to avoid infection. He or she may place a small device on the eyelids to keep them out of the way. Next, the doctor injects the medication into the vitreous fluid, the jelly-like substance that fills the back of your eye.
The injections are performed in the ophthalmologist’s office and may be required monthly. The length of treatment depends on your body’s response to the therapy.
In most people who are given anti-vascular endothelial growth factor therapy, wet macular degeneration stops progressing. Vision loss is halted in about 90 percent of people, and up to one third experience improvements in vision after treatment is complete.
Side effects may include the rupture of a tiny blood vessel in the eye, or an abrasion on the cornea, the front of the eye. Very rarely, retinal detachment, when the retina separates from surrounding tissue, or infection can occur.