Avastin – As a Treatment
Eye problems increase as we age due to wear and tear, as well as our bad habits and environmental factors. The good news is that we can often do something about these instead of simply letting our vision follow a downward trajectory.
Health professionals can use different drugs to treat each case and bring us some relief. Avastin is a brand of medicine that is commonly used to treat various diseases, including wet macular degeneration and several forms of cancer.
It is also known as bevacizumab which is its non-proprietary name. While there are similar medications, this considered as one of the cheapest and most highly effective treatments available.
Note that it is not approved for use in AMD treatment everywhere. In some countries, only its rival brands are licensed for eye conditions while Avastin is only confined to some cancer cases. This has led some medical professionals to advocate for its off-label use.
Before this drug can be utilized, patients will need to be aware of all the pros and cons involved. They should know how it works within the body, what it is specifically used for, how the process goes, what the risks are, and what they can realistically expect after treatment. All of these are discussed below.
The Mechanism of Action
Avastin is a drug that may be recommended by doctors for specific eye conditions. It is particularly suitable for issues that deal with expanding blood vessels. This medication has the ability to block a chemical inside that body that is responsible for the abnormal growth. With the help of Avastin, the blood vessels can be managed more effectively.
The expansion will slow down such that pain, inflammation, and vision problems will no longer be as pronounced. It is not the only drug that is able to do this. There is a whole class called anti-VEGF drugs.
VEGF stands for vascular endothelial growth factor. In the past, it was referred to as vascular permeability factor or VPF. This is a signal protein that has the power to stimulate blood vessel production.
It can also help to provide better oxygen supply to the tissues that need it. The protein is an important element within the body but it can cause trouble if it is over-expressed.
This can lead to unwanted growth including cancer and vascular abnormalities. This commonly occurs in the retina causing vision loss and other problems. Drugs that inhibit VEGF provide the fastest relief for patients.
Eye Conditions Treated with Avastin
Wet Age-related Macular Degeneration
This drug is often used to treat macular degeneration of which there are two types: dry and wet. The dry kind is the more prevalent. It has been traced to aging with seniors comprising most patients.
This may also develop if the tissues of the macula start to get too thin. All of these happen gradually, including the resulting vision loss. The best way to deal with this issue is to prevent it from happening in the first place.
People should take care of their eyes, resting them before they get sore, avoiding excessive exposure to blue light, and using filtered eyeglasses.
The wet kind of AMD can be found in about one tenth of the cases. Somehow blood vessels form under the retina in an abnormal manner.
The vessels may leak with the fluids going where they shouldn’t be, reducing visual acuity. Whereas dry AMD tends to creep up slowly, this one happens quite suddenly with the effects felt almost right away.
The loss of vision can be serious. Wet age-related macular degeneration must not be ignored. If symptoms are experienced, a consultation with doctors should be scheduled right away.
They will check to see if this is indeed a case of wet AMD and respond to the issue accordingly.
There are multiple forms of treatment for this type of eye condition. Ophthalmologists will perform a thorough check to determine all the details of each case and recommend the most suitable course of action.
For example, anti-VEGF drugs will only benefit those who suffer from wet AMD. We have already explained that Avastin and similar formulations have the ability to stop the signal protein from helping abnormal blood vessels to grow.
The leaks will subside and things may gradually return to normal. Using the same drug for dry AMD will have no discernible effect. Other modalities will be suggested.
The macula is the part of the eye responsible for our central vision. It is quite small and hard to make out within the retina, especially as it is at the back of the eyes.
However, it is crucial in sensing as much detail about our surroundings as we can.
The thin layer helps to sharpen our focus so that we can sew, read, and recognize objects. It allows us to see things with pinpoint accuracy.
Whenever we see something, what actually happens is that light bounces off of it which enters the eyes through the cornea, the pupil, and the lens. The image is focused until it reaches the retina which then converts the light into electrical signals for the brain via the optic nerve.
Macular edema is described as the swelling of the macula.
It is again a complication of leaking fluids from the blood vessels. The swelling impedes with its function so individuals that experience this will complain of vision loss.
The degree can be mild to severe. Since the macula is responsible for central vision, this will be what’s largely affected. Most people will still be able to see through their peripheral vision. Of course, this is an odd and non-ideal situation that will force them to view the world through the sides of their eyes.
There are a number of reasons for the onset of macular edema. One of the most common is diabetic retinopathy. This is the leading cause of blindness among diabetics.
It should be treated right away to prevent permanent and severe damage. If found early enough, the doctors may be able to stop the leakage using Avastin or similar drugs.
The swelling can then subside, allowing the macula to function normally.
How Avastin Treatment Goes
People can be wary when it comes to eye treatment since it is a sensitive part of the body and there are many risks involved.
However, they should not be fearful of Avastin treatment as this is quite fast and simple. There will be no large cuts to worry about or weeks of healing time to contend with. In fact, it is often performed as an outpatient procedure.
Individuals can show up during their appointment and leave almost as soon as the treatment has been completed. Just be sure to find an experienced ophthalmologist for the best results from this process.
The doctor will prepare the eyes to reduce the risk of infection before anything else. He or she will then apply a medicine that will keep it numb for a short while to make the procedure pain-free and prevent excessive movement.
The drug will be delivered to the affected area through injection. For this, doctors use a very fine needle that goes into the side on the white part to avoid hitting the vital structures. Afterwards, the swelling will be observed for any signs of progress.
Multiple injections may be required over a few months to completely solve the problem. This can be combined with other modes of treatment to hasten recovery.
The Risks Posed by Avastin
No medical treatment is perfect. Each poses its own risk to the patient which doctors must mitigate and patients must understand. These must be explained thoroughly before any decision is made regarding the case.
Avastin is no exception. Although it has cured countless people over the years, it can also cause several side effects such as infection, cataracts, and detached retina. This is why the preparatory process is crucial before injection.
Doctors must carefully clean the eyes and use sanitary tools when performing this procedure. They cannot do it haphazardly as carelessness will increase the likelihood of an eye infection.
They should also carefully calibrate the angle and depth of the needle. This can be tricky since the retina is situated at the back of the eyes. They should get as close to it as possible for the drug to work its way into the leaky blood vessels effectively.
However, they must not get too close that they detach the retina from its spot which could result in the loss of vision. Surgery might then be required to fix the problem. Cataracts, on the other hand, is described as the clouding of the lens.
This can be remedied by cataract surgery in which the faulty lens is replaced by an artificial lens implant. The cost of cataract surgery is negligible compared to its benefits.
Other less serious side effects can be experienced as well. Patients who undergo Avastin treatment should be alert in case these issues come up.
Go to the doctor immediately to assess the situation and get relief. For example, they may notice redness of the eyes. These may become painful in some cases which could indicate swelling or other underlying problems.
There are people who complain of dryness, irritation, or itch. They might feel as if there is something foreign inside.
Of course, it is not recommended to apply excessive pressure to these sensitive organs at this point even if it is tempting.
A few might complain about changes in their vision immediately following the injection. Things might become blurrier than before. They might even see double which can be confusing and could cause dizziness.
The eye is adjusting to the stimulus at this point. It should subside after a while with thing going back to normal. If it doesn’t, then the case should be reassessed for further treatments. In most cases, the side effects should go away within a few days by themselves.
Non-visual Side Effects
Not all of Avastin’s side effects revolve around the eyes. Although the direct injection is to these organs, the drug will circulate around the body and possible affect other areas.
It has been noted that the drug can have a great impact on the digestion system. For example, patients may experience a loss of appetite following the treatment. They might find themselves having a chance in taste and having substantial weight loss.
Some report having dry mouth or even sores around the area. Voice changes are also possible. There are a few complaints of heartburn and diarrhoea. Drinking enough water is recommended.
There are more serious side effects that can develop. Call the doctor right away if any of these come up in the first few days after injection.
These include dizziness, fainting, or seizures which can make it dangerous to drive or simply move around. Some people report weakness in their extremeties or a feeling of severe fatigue. They may also feel pain around their upper back, neck, chest, or arms.
Some might experience shortness of breath, coughing, gagging, or choking after a meal. There may also be swelling in various parts of the body such as the face, stomach, lower legs, and feet.
Check the urine as well. This might become foamy which indicates excessive protein content — a possible sign of kidney problem or dehydration. Persistent dry, hacking cough can also develop which can be quite irritating.
The skin may become red and itchy in spots. The presence of one or more of these side effects should be a red flag. Consult the doctor immediately.
The Limitations of the Treatment
It should be noted that Avastin will only be able to help the patients finally close off the leaks in their blood vessels.
This should prevent more damage to the macula and avoid a further degeneration of vision. However, this will not turn back time and heal the previous vision loss.
What has transpired before cannot be undone but complete blindness can definitely be averted by acting swiftly and decisively. Expectations should be set accordingly so that people will not look for results that are simply unachievable.
This treatment can be extremely beneficial but it has its own limitations.
There are drugs that should not be mixed together are their combination can have adverse effects on the patient or reduce the effectiveness of the treatment.
Before taking any Avastin injections, people must tell their doctors about the medications that they are currently taking to avoid any problems later on. These should include prescription medication, over-the-counter medicines, banned substances, recreational drugs, nutritional supplements, herbal medicines, and so on.
Doctors will be especially concerned about anticoagulants, irinotecan, and sunitinib. They should also know about the previous use of any anthracyclines. This is a class of chemotherapy drugs. Patients must get their doctor’s approval if they plan on getting immunised while on Avastin treatment.
Doctors will carefully calibrate the dosage depending on the situation. They will factor in the patient’s weight, medical condition, and observable response to the treatment.
The drug comes in a liquid solution that needs to be injected directly into the troubled area. In the case of wet macular degeneration, it should be injected into the white part of the eyes such that it reached the blood vessels near the macula.
Several injections may be necessary before the problem goes away.
These are generally scheduled a few weeks apart. The response to the drug will be carefully monitored. Trust only the experts to get the results you want. Use other forms of treatment if necessary like Lucentis.
Call The Sight Clinic today for more information.