Treatment of choroidal neovascular membranes (CNVM) can vary depending on the underlying disease. Treatment includes anti-VEGF drugs, thermal laser treatment or photodynamic therapy (PDT). Depending on the progress of your disease, you may receive one or more of these treatments.
A common way to treat CNVM is with anti-VEGF drugs. These drugs target a chemical in your body that causes abnormal blood vessels to grow under the retina. That chemical is vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF. Several anti-VEGF drugs can block the trouble-causing VEGF chemical in the eye. Blocking VEGF reduces the growth of CNVM, slows their leakage, helps to slow vision loss and in some cases improves vision.
Your ophthalmologist administers the anti-VEGF drug directly to your eye in an outpatient procedure. Before the injection, your ophthalmologist will clean and numb your eye. You may receive multiple anti-VEGF injections over the course of many months. Repeat anti-VEGF treatments are often needed for continued benefit.
Thermal laser treatment
Another form of treatment for CNVM is with thermal laser therapy. Laser treatment is usually done as an outpatient procedure. It takes place in the doctor’s office or at the hospital.
The laser beam in this procedure is a high-energy, focused beam of light. It produces a small burn when it hits the treatment area of the retina. This destroys the abnormal blood vessels, preventing further leakage, bleeding and growth.
Following laser treatment, vision may be more blurred than before treatment. But often it will stabilize within a few weeks. A scar forms at the treatment site, creating a permanent blind spot. This blind spot might be noticeable in your field of vision.
The laser treatment usually destroys the abnormal blood vessels. But patients often need a re-treatment within three to five years.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT)
PDT uses a light-activated drug called a photosensitizer and a special low-power, or cool, laser to target the CNVM. Your ophthalmologist performs this procedure on an outpatient basis, usually in an ophthalmologist’s office. The photosensitive drug is injected into a vein in your arm. It travels throughout the body and to the abnormal blood vessels. The laser is targeted directly on the abnormal vessels, activating the drug. This causes damage specifically to those unwanted blood vessels.
After PDT, the abnormal blood vessels may reopen, so you may need multiple treatments.
Treating CNVM can help stabilize your vision and prevent further vision loss. However, in many patients it is not possible to regain lost sight. In such cases, it is important to learn how to make the most of your remaining vision.