Anti-VEGF treatments are a group of medicines which reduce new blood vessel growth (neovascularisation) or oedema (swelling).
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Anti-VEGF medicines can be used to treat a number of eye conditions that cause new blood vessel growth or swelling under the macular area of your retina, the lining of the back of the eye.
The macula is a tiny area of your central retina, which is very important for seeing detail, colour, and objects directly in front of you. When there is new, abnormal blood vessel growth or swelling at the macula, it can cause problems with your central detailed vision and with tasks such as reading, watching television, or recognising faces. Anti-VEGF treatment usually must be started quickly before the new blood vessels or swelling does too much damage to the macula.
This page contains a summary of our information on anti-VEGF treatment. To read our full information, download our factsheet:
Can you help improve our information factsheet on Anti-VEGF treatment?
Do you live in the UK and are told you require Anti-VEGF treatment or presently undergoing this treatment? If so, we would like your views on our information about this treatment. Your views will help us make our information as useful as possible for other people who require Anti-VEGF treatment.
We would like to hear from you if you are happy to:
- Read our information on Anti-VEGF (which can be downloaded from the link above) and also available in large print, braille and audio.
- Answer a few questions over the phone about how helpful the current content is, based on your experience of the condition or treatment, and how our information could be improved.
What eye conditions is anti-VEGF treatment used for?
How is anti-VEGF treatment given?
Anti-VEGF treatment is given as an injection into the white of your eye (the sclera). The drug is injected directly into the vitreous, the jelly that fills your eye. This is called an “intravitreal” injection. The procedure is generally very straightforward and quick and isn’t usually painful.
For more information on what it is like to have an anti-VEGF injection, watch our video which features Reg talking about having his anti-VEGF injections.
What are the complications of anti-VEGF injections?
The risk of complications from anti-VEGF injections is very small. Most of the possible complications come from having an injection into your eye, rather than the anti-VEGF drug itself. For most people, the benefit of having the treatment to protect your sight outweighs the very small risk that comes with the injection.
Common complications due to anti-VEGF injections can include:
- Slight ache or pain in the eye lasting a day or two
- Temporary floaters - clearing in a week
- Bruising on the white of your eye that appears red or bloodshot, but this should clear in a week or two
- Eye may feel sore and gritty.
Rare complications that may occur from the treatment can include:
- Increase in eye pressure
- Retinal detachment
- Inflammation inside the eye
Although some of these complications are serious, they can be treated, so permanently losing your sight following an anti-VEGF injection is rare.
How will I be followed up during my treatment?
If you are diagnosed with wet AMD you should receive an initial assessment and your first anti-VEGF injection, if required, within two weeks of referral to the hospital or another eye clinic. Usually, you will start by having a course of three injections, once every four weeks for three months. This is known as a “loading dose”.
How often you need further injections will depend on the type of anti-VEGF drug you are receiving and how well the treatment is working. It’s very common for people to have more injections after the first three.
Macular oedema caused by retinal vein occlusion
Usually, you will start with a loading dose of three anti-VEGF injections, once a month for three months. After this, your ophthalmologist will check how well the treatment is working. It’s quite common for people to have more injections after the first three. Your ophthalmologist may want to see you regularly in the eye clinic for the first six months and then perhaps less so for the next 12 months.
Diabetic macular oedema (DMO)
Anti-VEGF treatment for DMO is given when the amount of fluid or swelling has caused your macula to thicken by a certain amount. Injections are usually given once a month to begin with, and then may continue to be given monthly or may be given every two months. How many injections and how often you might need them will depend on the type of anti-VEGF drug you are receiving and how the DMO responds to treatment.
Myopic choroidal neovascularisation (myopic CNV)
Treatment for myopic CNV usually starts with one anti-VEGF injection. After this you’ll normally be monitored at the eye clinic every month for the first couple of months. You may be given further injections at these visits if your ophthalmologist thinks they are needed. If your condition becomes stable, you may not need further injections, but you’ll still be monitored closely, normally around once every three months for the first year.
How successful is anti-VEGF treatment?
Anti-VEGF treatments are very successful and give a good chance of preventing further sight loss. In most cases, the aim of treatment is to stabilise vision and prevent it from getting worse. In some cases, treatment can also help to improve vision and reduce distortion.
How much your vision will improve will depend on your individual circumstances. It may not help with any other eye conditions that you have. Generally, the better your level of vision is before starting treatment, the better the outcome is likely to be. You should ask your ophthalmologist what improvement they would expect, as they will be able to consider your individual circumstances and eye condition.
Although anti-VEGF treatment can mean a lot of injections and visits to the hospital, it is a very successful treatment and has significantly improved visual outcomes for these conditions.
Further help and support
It’s completely natural to be concerned if you have an eye condition that requires anti-VEGF treatment. We’re here to support you every step of the way, and to answer any questions you may have – just get in touch with our Sight Loss Advice Service.
The Macular Society can put you in touch with a "treatment buddy" who can support people who are anxious about their injections and offer information and reassurance.
Page last reviewed: Sept. 1, 2022
Next review due: Jan. 31, 2023