What is an Intravitreal Injection?
An intravitreal injection is a medical procedure to treat retina diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, inflammation, and related conditions. It refers to the process of injecting medications into the vitreous, or fluid that fills the inside of the eye.
A vitreous is a jelly-like substance that fills the inside of the eye. It helps keep everything in place and provides space for the inside layers (like the photoreceptors and nerves) to work correctly.
The injections are typically given in areas surrounding the retina, immediately relieving symptoms.
What conditions is an intravitreal injection used to treat?
An intravitreal injection is a treatment used to prevent loss of vision from conditions affecting the eye, such as:
- To treat or reduce the effect of wet macular degeneration
- To treat age-related macular degeneration
- To treat diabetic retinopathy
- To treat uveitis (inflammation) of the eye
What happens during an intravitreal injection procedure?
You will be given an outpatient appointment at The Hamptons Hospital that may take approximately 30-45 minutes. When you arrive, you will have your consultation with the consultant Ophthalmologist, where your eyes will be dilated, and you will have an OCT scan.
The nurse will then take you to the treatment room and prepare you for the procedure, where your eye will be cleaned. The injection will then be prepared, and your eye will be anaesthetised with eye drops. A small drape will also be placed over your eye, covering part of your face.
Once the eye is numb, the VEGF injection will be administered. Once administered, the consultant will check your vision, remove the drape, clean the eye and apply an antibiotic and lubricating eye drop.
You will receive aftercare instructions before leaving your appointment.
What is the recovery?
Vision may be blurred for around 6 hours after the injection, so driving is not allowed following the procedure. After two days, normal activities can be resumed, including wearing contact lenses. Some patients feel an improvement in symptoms immediately after the injection. However, it takes 7 -10 days to see the full benefits.
What is age-related macular degeneration?
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease that damages the retina. It happens most often in adults aged 50 and older. People with AMD lose their sharp, central vision. This makes it hard for them to read, drive, or recognise faces.
An intravitreal injection is a shot of medicine placed directly into the eye. It helps people with AMD see better and have fewer eye problems.
Age-related Macular Degeneration affects a tiny part of the retina at the back of your eye called the macular, affecting central vision.
Several drugs are used to treat wet AMD, known as Anti-VEGF drugs. VEGF is short for Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor. It is the substance in the body that is responsible for the development of healthy blood vessels. In wet AMD, too much VEGF is produced in the eye, causing the growth of unwanted, unhealthy blood vessels.
Anti-VEGF drugs block the production of VEGF and stop the development of abnormal blood vessels. All the anti-VEGF drugs are given as an injection into the eye. Don’t be alarmed; the injections are much less frightening than they sound. (Treatment for age-related macular degeneration - Age-related macular degeneration - Macular Society)
What are the symptoms of age-related macular degeneration?
The symptoms of age-related macular degeneration can include blurriness and distortion in central vision. Other symptoms can include seeing areas of blankness or darkness in your central vision and changes in colour perception. These symptoms tend to develop slowly over several years. Over time, they will get worse until your central vision is no longer useful.
What is diabetic retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that can lead to vision loss. It usually affects both eyes but begins first in one eye.
Diabetic retinopathy is the result of damage to the small blood vessels in the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive membrane that lines the inner part of the eye and sends visual images to the brain. This disease occurs when high blood sugar affects the tiny blood vessels in the eye’s retina.
What are the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy?
While most patients with diabetes may not experience any early symptoms, some can experience symptoms of diabetic retinopathy, such as:
- Floaters or flashes, very dark areas in the visual field
- Increased sensitivity to light (photophobia)
- A curtain effect, which is a patchy blind area that you feel moving across your field of vision
- Sudden blurring or reduction in your central vision with or without floaters or flashing lights. This is called a black hole effect and is caused by bleeding within the retina, which can leave scar tissue behind. Your Ophthalmologist will call this a "black dot haemorrhage."
- Increased risk of developing cataracts and vitreous detachment
What is uveitis?
Uveitis refers to inflammation of the iris, which is the coloured part of your eye. The swelling can cause loss of vision and discomfort. Uveitis is a general term for inflammation of the eye’s middle layer (uvea) and its lining or coat (the conjunctiva).
What are the symptoms of uveitis?
The main symptoms of uveitis are:
- Redness of the eye
- Pain in moving the eye
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Discharge from one or both eyes
- Eyelid swelling
- Visual field defects (areas where vision is lost or decreased in some way).