Learning About Anti-VEGF Treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy

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Eye anatomy

What is anti-VEGF treatment?

Antivascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) is a medicine that helps stop the growth of abnormal blood vessels. It is used to try to prevent or treat vision loss from age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, or other eye problems.

Diabetes can harm blood vessels in the retina, the part of the eye that sends images to your brain. This damage is called diabetic retinopathy. It can lead to poor vision and even blindness.

When anti-VEGF is injected into the eye, it shrinks problem blood vessels. It also reduces swelling in the retina (macular edema).

You will probably need a series of injections. Your doctor will tell you what the schedule will be.

How is it done?

The doctor puts medicine in your eye to numb it. You are given eyedrops that widen (dilate) your pupils. You may also get medicine to help you relax.

Your eyelids are held open. The doctor injects the medicine into the gel-filled globe of the eye. Most people don't feel pain during an eye injection. Some people feel mild pain or discomfort.

What can you expect after anti-VEGF treatment?

  • You probably will need someone to drive you to and from the appointment. Your doctor will let you know in advance.
  • Use eyedrops as your doctor recommends.
  • Ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Wear sunglasses to keep bright light out of your eyes while they're still dilated. They will stay dilated for a few hours.

For a short time after treatment, you may have floaters in your vision. These are spots and lines that "float" across your field of vision. Your eye may be red and irritated. You may feel discomfort or pain.

For most people, the eye feels normal a day or two after treatment.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have vision changes.
  • You see new flashes of light.
  • You have increased eye pain.
  • You have worsening redness.
  • You have any symptoms of allergic reaction such as trouble breathing or a rash.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You see new or worse floaters.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.