What is Avastin and what happens during treatment?

Avastin® is a drug used to treat wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD). It is also used to treat diabetic eye disease and other problems of the retina. It is injected into the eye to help slow vision loss from these diseases.

Avastin is the brand name for the drug, which is called bevacizumab. It blocks the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the back of the eye. Those blood vessels can leak and affect vision, causing vision loss from wet AMD and diabetic eye disease.

Avastin was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat different types of cancer. Its use to treat eye disease is considered an “off-label” use. The FDA allows “off label” drug use if doctors are well informed about the product and studies prove the drug is helpful.

Lucentis® (ranibizumab) is another drug like Avastin. Research shows that both Avastin and Lucentis are equally effective in slowing vision loss.

How does Avastin work?

Abnormal blood vessels need a body chemical called VEGF to grow. Avastin blocks VEGF, slowing the growth of blood vessels in the eye. Drugs that block the trouble-causing VEGF are called anti-VEGF drugs.

What conditions are treated with Avastin?

Avastin is used to treat the following eye problems:

What happens during treatment with Avastin?

During an outpatient procedure, your ophthalmologist injects the Avastin directly into your eye.

Before the procedure, your ophthalmologist will clean your eye to prevent infection and numb your eye with medicine. A very thin needle is passed through the white part of your eye and the drug is injected. Usually you do not see the needle itself. You may need to continue having these injections over many months.

Sometime ophthalmologists will combine Avastin treatment with other treatments for the best chance of saving your vision.

What are the risks of Avastin treatment?

Every treatment can have side effects. It is important to understand the benefits and risks of any treatment you might have. Avastin may cause these problems:

  • eye infection
  • detached retina (where the retina lifts up from the back of the eye)
  • cataracts (clouding of the eye’s normally clear lens)

Other side effects may include:

  • eye redness
  • being extra sensitive to light
  • eye pain
  • changes in vision, including blurriness, floaters, and seeing double images
  • dry or itchy eyes
  • feeling like something is in your eye

Call your ophthalmologist right away if you have any of these problems within a few days of Avastin treatment.

If you have any questions about your eyes or your vision, be sure to ask. Your ophthalmologist is committed to protecting your sight.