Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Wet macular degeneration can't be cured. If diagnosed early, treatment may help slow progress of wet macular degeneration and reduce the amount of vision lost.

Medications to stop growth of abnormal blood vessels

Medications may help stop growth of new blood vessels by blocking the effects of growth signals the body sends to generate new blood vessels. These drugs are considered the first-line treatment for all stages of wet macular degeneration.

Medications used to treat wet macular degeneration include:

  • Bevacizumab (Avastin)
  • Ranibizumab (Lucentis)
  • Pegaptanib (Macugen)
  • Aflibercept (Eylea)

Your doctor injects these medications directly into your eye. You may undergo repeat injections every four weeks to maintain the beneficial effect of the medication. In some instances, you may partially recover vision as the blood vessels shrink and the fluid under the retina absorbs, allowing retinal cells to regain some function.

Some of these medications may increase the risk of stroke.

Using light to activate an injected medication (photodynamic therapy)

Photodynamic therapy is used to treat abnormal blood vessels at the center of your macula.

In this procedure, your doctor injects a medication called verteporfin (Visudyne) into a vein in your arm, which travels to blood vessels in your eye. Your doctor shines a focused light from a special laser to the abnormal blood vessels in your eye. This activates the medication within the abnormal blood vessels. The medication then can cause the abnormal blood vessels in your eye to close, which stops the leakage.

Photodynamic therapy may improve the vision and reduce the rate of vision loss. You may need repeated treatments over time, as the treated blood vessels may reopen.

After photodynamic therapy, you'll need to avoid direct sunlight and intensely bright lights until the drug has cleared your body, which may take a few days.

Using a laser to destroy abnormal blood vessels (photocoagulation)

During laser therapy, your doctor uses a high-energy laser beam to destroy abnormal blood vessels under the macula. The procedure is used to prevent further damage to the macula and slow continued vision loss.

Laser therapy is used to treat wet macular degeneration only in certain situations. It generally isn't an option if you have abnormal blood vessels directly under the center of the macula. Also, the more damaged your macula is, the lower the likelihood of functional success. Because of these restrictions, few people who have wet macular degeneration are candidates for laser therapy.

Dec. 01, 2012

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