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Anti-VEGF Therapy - A Promising Therapeutic Approach to Prevent Vision Loss

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Anti-VEGF therapy is a treatment approach for ocular disorders. The therapy has risks and benefits. Read the article to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Shikha Gupta

Published At May 25, 2023
Reviewed AtDecember 9, 2023

Introduction

Anti-VEGF therapy is a highly effective and new treatment for several disorders, including diabetic retinopathy, neurovascular age-related macular degeneration, and retinal vein occlusion. The therapy involves drugs that inhibit vascular endothelial growth factor, which helps in the formation of blood vessels in the retina. Excessive VEGF production can lead to abnormal blood vessel growth leading to vision loss and other eye-related complications. Due to high efficiency, easy administration, and good safety profile, the therapy is a preferred treatment option for many ocular disorders. It has many risks and side effects. Careful management and monitoring may ensure optimal outcomes. Ongoing research may improve the safety and effectiveness of anti-VEGF therapy.

What Is VEGF?

VEGF is a vascular end-growth factor. It is a protein that plays a role in the formation of new blood vessels in the body, including the eye. VEGF is produced in response to low oxygen levels. The protein binds to the specific receptors on the surface of endothelial cells and stimulates new blood vessels. Excessive VEGF production can lead to abnormal blood vessel growth, causing several ocular diseases. These abnormal blood vessels can leak fluid causing bleeding, swelling, and scarring.

What Is Anti-VEGF Therapy?

Anti-VEGF therapy is a medical treatment that involves the use of drugs that bind with proteins known as vascular endothelial growth factors. VEGF is a protein that stimulates the growth of blood vessels and the development of new blood vessels in the body. Anti-VEGF drugs block the action of VEGF and stop the growth of new blood vessels. The drugs are administered through injection. The main goal is to reduce the growth and size of abnormal blood vessels and improve the function of affected tissues or organs.

What Are the Different Anti-VEGF Drugs?

Several different anti-VEGF agents are currently used in medical practice. The anti-VEGF drugs are as follows:

  • Bevacizumab: It is a licensed drug used to treat cancer as well as age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. The drug is injected directly into the eye on a monthly basis. The drug inhibits the growth of new blood vessels in the eye leading to leakage and vision loss. It is effective in improving visual acuity. It is less expensive than other drugs.

  • Ranibizumab: The drug is commonly used in ophthalmology to treat several eye conditions, including age-related macular degeneration, macular edema, and diabetic macular edema. The drug is administered directly into the eye. It also inhibits the growth of new blood vessels leading to leakage and vision loss. The drug is effective in reducing retinal thickness in patients with eye disorders. Since 2006, the drug has been approved for use in ophthalmology.

  • Aflibercept: The drug is used in ophthalmology to treat various eye disorders. It is administered directly into the eye every four to eight weeks. The drug blocks the action of VEGF, which contributes to the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the eye. It improves visual acuity and reduces retinal thickness. The drug was approved in 2011 as a standard treatment for eye conditions.

  • Pegaptanib: The drug is used to treat wet age-related macular degeneration. It is administered into the eye every six weeks. It also contributes to the growth of abnormal blood vessels. It is most effective in improving visual outcomes.

  • Conbercept: The drug is used to treat retinal vein occlusion. It is administered directly into the eye every four to eight weeks. The drug is approved for use in the eye in China and not approved in the United States or Europe.

What Are the Common Eye Conditions Treated With Anti-VEGF Drugs?

Anti-VEGF drugs are used to treat eye conditions that are involved in abnormal blood vessel growth. The drugs reduce the abnormal blood vessels in the eye and improve visual outcomes. The eye disorders treated with anti-VEGF drugs are as follows:

  • Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration: It is a common cause of vision loss in older people. The condition occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow under the macula. Macula is a part of the retina responsible for vision.

  • Diabetic Macular Edema: The condition is a complication of diabetes that can lead to vision loss. The condition occurs when the fluid accumulates in the macula leading to leaky blood vessels.

  • Retinal Vein Occlusion: The condition occurs when a vein in the retina gets blocked, causing the fluid to accumulate and leading to macular edema.

  • Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy: The condition is a complication of diabetes that can cause abnormal blood vessels to grow in the retina. It can lead to scarring and bleeding.

What Are the Risks of Anti-VEGF Therapy?

Anti-VEGF therapy is considered an effective and safe treatment for various eye conditions. But, the therapy is associated with some risks and side effects, including:

  • Eye Infections: Anti-VEGF injections are directly injected into the eye. It carries a small risk of getting an eye infection. The patient is advised to use antibiotic eye drops to prevent infections.

  • Increased Intraocular Pressure: The patient may experience increased intraocular pressure after receiving anti-VEGF injections. It can lead to serious eye conditions known as glaucoma leading to vision loss if left untreated.

  • Retinal Detachment: The therapy may increase the risk of retinal detachment. A condition in which the retina is separated from the underlying tissue in the eye.

  • Bleeding: The therapy may cause bleeding in the eye leading to vision loss.

  • Allergic Reactions: Some patients may have an allergic reaction to the therapy.

  • Cataract: Long-term use of drugs may increase the risk of cataracts and lead to vision loss.

What Are the Benefits of Anti-VEGF Therapy?

Anti-VEGF drugs are used to treat various eye disorders. The benefits of the therapy are as follows:

  • Treating Cancer: The therapy is used to treat cancer, including lung, colorectal, and kidney cancer. The drugs limit the spread and growth of cancer cells.

  • Treating Eye Diseases: Anti-VEGF therapy is used in treating eye diseases like diabetic retinopathy, retinal vein occlusion, and age-related macular degeneration. It prevents the growth of abnormal blood vessels and improves vision.

  • Treating Other Conditions: The therapy is also used in treating other conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and Crohn’s disease. It improves the symptoms and quality of life.

Conclusion

Anti-VEGF therapy shows good results in the treatment of various medical conditions, including eye diseases, cancer, and inflammatory diseases. The drugs work by blocking the action of VEGF and preventing the growth of abnormal blood vessels. It reduces inflammation and slows the progression of the disease. It has few side effects as compared to chemotherapy. The healthcare provider may evaluate the risks and side effects of anti-VEGF therapy before starting treatment.

Dr. Shikha Gupta
Dr. Shikha Gupta

Ophthalmology (Eye Care)

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