About Eye Injections
Many retinal conditions can be treated using medications that are injected into the eye. The needle is injected directly into the sclera (the white part of the eye) and into the vitreous humor, the gel in the middle of the eye. This procedure is generally performed in-office using drops to numb the eye.
Anti-Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (Anti-VEGF) Injections
The most common types of eye medications that are administered via injection are anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) medications. Anti-VEGF medications are used to slow the growth of abnormal blood vessels or prevent blood vessels from leaking fluid in the eye. The most well-known anti-VEGFs available are Avastin (bevacizumab), Lucentis (ranibizumab), and Eylea (aflibercept).
Abnormal blood vessels are associated with several retinal conditions, including wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy. The abnormal blood vessels leak and bleed into the retina, which can impair vision. The anti-VEGF medications help to halt or minimize abnormal blood vessel growth and leakage, thereby helping to stabilize vision. For many patients, anti-VEGF injections can even improve vision.
Repeat injections are usually required, especially for chronic conditions such as AMD and diabetic retinopathy. Your retina specialist will discuss your long-term treatment options during your clinical examination.
When Eye Injections Are Recommended
Eye injections are used to treat a wide range of retinal conditions, including:
- Wet age-related macular degeneration
- Dry age-related macular degeneration
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Retinal vein occlusion
- Diabetic macular edema (swelling of the retina)
What to Expect During the Eye Injection Procedure
Although the idea of getting eye injections may seem intimidating, most patients experience little to no discomfort or pain during the procedure. Knowing what to expect helps many patients feel more at ease before the procedure begins. Below are the general steps of an eye injection procedure:
- First, your doctor will administer a local anesthetic on the eye, usually with a drop. This will numb the eyes and prevent pain during the injection.
- Your eyes will be cleaned with an antiseptic to prevent bacterial infection.
- Next, your doctor will then use a speculum or manual retraction with their fingers to keep your eyelid open during the procedure.
- Once your eyelid has been secured, your doctor will instruct you to look in the direction away from where the needle will be administered.
- Using a very thin needle, your doctor will inject the medication into your sclera. You may feel a slight pressure.
The procedure is very quick, typically taking only about 10 to 15 minutes to perform.
Recovery After Eye Injections
After receiving an eye injection, you will be unable to drive for several hours, as your vision may be blurry. After receiving an eye injection, you may experience eye irritation . Using topical artificial tears like Systane or Refresh every 2-3 hours for the rest of the day after the injection may improve your comfort. In some cases, you may develop a blood spot at the injection site of the eye, also known as a subconjunctival hemorrhage. Although this might look scary, it usually clears up within a few weeks. It is common to see floaters after the injection, which typically improve over a few days.
In the vast majority of cases, recovery after eye injection is simple and without complication. However, there is a small risk--less than 1 in 5,000--of infection or vision loss after an injection. If you experience any of the following symptoms after having eye injections, it’s important that you contact your retina specialist immediately:
- Pain and discomfort in the injected eye
- Decreased vision
- Increased light-sensitivity