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  • Choosing Wisely When It Comes to Eye Care, Part 4

    Jun. 10, 2013

    Part 4 of Our 5-Part Series: Antibiotics for Eye Injections

    Making healthy lifestyle choices can help you protect your vision by reducing your risk for eye diseases, eye infections and eye injuries. Partnering with your ophthalmologist — an eye physician and surgeon — is another key to good eye health, especially for young children and older people. From vision screenings to treatment for common conditions like pink eye or more serious eye diseases, your ophthalmologist's care can make the difference between enjoying good vision and losing your eyesight.

    Sometimes, though, it is difficult to know how much eye care is enough, and which eye treatments are best for you. To help make sure you and your ophthalmologist choose wisely when you consider your treatment options, the American Academy of Ophthalmology has joined more than 30 other medical societies in the Choosing Wisely® campaign to encourage conversations between doctors and patients to discuss medical options.

    Ophthalmologists have identified five specific tests and treatments that could benefit from doctor-patient conversations. They include:

    This is the fourth in a series of articles that will discuss each item in detail.

    Antibiotics for Eye Injections

    A common way to treat the wet form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) targets a specific chemical in your body that causes abnormal blood vessels to grow under the retina. That chemical is called vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF. Over the last decade, anti-VEGF medications have offered a new, effective treatment option for people with wet AMD and other eye conditions. The increasing use of anti-VEGF injections, along with other eye injection treatments, has made eye injection one of the most common medical procedures in the United States.

    In addition to applying antiseptic to the eye, lid and lashes before an eye injection, it is not uncommon for ophthalmologists to prescribe antibiotic eyedrops as well for use before and/or after eye injections to prevent infections. Makes sense, right?

    Not so fast. For anti-VEGF injections, antibiotics have not been shown to prevent eye infections, and they carry the risk of allergic reaction. In addition, repeated exposure to antibiotics can lead to bacteria that don't respond readily to available treatments. The use of antiseptics before injection treatments, as described above, is appropriate and important for prevention of eye infection, and in most cases may be all that is necessary. You and your ophthalmologist should discuss the use of antibiotics before you have an eye injection procedure. Together, you can come to a decision that is right for your individual case.

    Ultimately, the best treatment for you will be up to you and your doctor. Choosing Wisely is all about making patient care even better and avoiding too much care that could possibly do harm. Having conversations with your doctor that help avoid unnecessary tests, medicines and procedures is one way to help keep you safe as a patient, and safeguard your pocketbook, too.

    More information on the Choosing Wisely campaign is available at Choosing Wisely.

    Return next week to learn why patients and their ophthalmologists should discuss treating dry eye with punctal plugs only after other treatment options have been explored.