Intraocular injections (also known as intravitreal injections) provide an effective way to deliver highly targeted drug therapy to the inside of the eye via the vitreous — the gel-like substance that fills the eye. As disconcerting as it may sound to receive an injection into your eye, numbing agents are used and discomfort is minimal. The ease and effectiveness of these injections has led to them becoming the most common ophthalmic procedure performed in the United States.
Intraocular injections are used to deliver anti-VEGF drugs to treat the growth and leaking of abnormal blood vessels associated with retinal diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy (DR), and retinal vein occlusion (RVO). Injections can also be used to deliver antibiotics for eye infections and steroids for eye inflammation or swelling.
What Are Anti-VEGF Injections?
Vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF, is a protein produced within the body that lines the inside of blood vessels. A primary function of the protein is to create and repair blood vessels. However, an overabundance of the protein in the delicate blood vessels of the retina — the tissue at the back of the eye responsible for processing light and transmitting visual signals to the brain — can lead to abnormal blood vessel growth and permeability. This causes the damage associated with AMD, DR, and RVO and can lead to loss of vision.
Anti-VEGF medications injected into the eye block the VEGF protein. This stops the formation of abnormal blood vessels and the leaking associated with them. The effects of the medication last for four to six weeks and anti-VEGF therapy usually entails recurring treatments over an extended period of time, however, your doctor will discuss with you the particulars of your case. These medications have been revolutionary in the treatment of AMD, DR, and RVO.
How Are Intraocular Injections Performed?
Medicated drops are first placed in the eye to numb it and minimize any discomfort from the procedure. Next, the eye is cleaned with a betadine solution to minimize any risk of infection. The injection is then given using a tiny needle that enters the eye through the white portion of the eye, known as the sclera. There may be a slight pressure sensation as the injection is given.
Preparing for Intraocular Injections
On the day of your injection, do not wear eye makeup. You will also need to arrange for someone to drive you to and from your appointment.
The eye may be irritated and watery for a day or two following the injection. If there is irritation, preservative-free artificial tears can be used. Mild redness of the eye is typical for the first 24 hours. A tiny red blood spot may be present at the site of injection, which may enlarge the first few days, and then gradually fade away. Normal activity can be resumed the day of the procedure although heavy lifting and working in dirty environments should be avoided. To reduce the risk of infection, avoid getting water in the eye for several days and swimming should be avoided for three days. Do not rub your eye.
Are There Any Risks With Intraocular Injections?
An intraocular injection is typically a very safe procedure, but there are still some potential side effects. Your physician will discuss with you the various risks associated with the injections. A common side effect is a blood spot on the surface of the eye at the point of injection. This is painless and typically resolves within a week without further symptoms. The most serious risk is infection, but this occurs only rarely in about one out of every 3,000 injections.
Intraocular Injections at the Dean McGee Eye Institute
The Dean McGee Eye Institute has been a leading provider of eye care for almost 50 years, providing superior, cutting-edge care to our patients. If you suffer from age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, or other diseases of the retina and vitreous and are seeking treatment, please browse our online physician directory or call 405.271.1092 or 800.787.9014 to schedule an appointment. One of the retina and vitreous specialists at the only nationally-ranked eye institute in the region will be happy to care for you.