Harvard Health Letter

By the way, doctor: Is Avastin for macular degeneration a good choice?

Q. My 78-year-old husband has wet macular degeneration. He is being treated with a drug called Avastin. Is that a good choice?

A. Wet macular degeneration is the advanced form of macular degeneration, an eye disease that's the leading cause of vision loss among Americans over age 50. The macula is the center of the retina, the light-sensitive layer of nerve cells (rods and cones) that lines the back of the eye. Wet macular degeneration is caused by abnormal growth of tiny blood vessels into or directly behind the retina; it's "wet" because the new vessels tend to leak fluid and blood. People with wet macular degeneration typically have a blind spot in the center of their vision. As it gets worse, the blind spot gets larger.

Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a naturally occurring signaling protein that stimulates the formation of blood vessels — a process called angiogenesis — in the eye and other parts of the body. Avastin — the generic name is bevacizumab — is one of the anti-VEGF, anti-angiogenesis drugs that have greatly improved the treatment of wet macular degeneration. By impeding the action of VEGF, these drugs block the formation of new blood vessels and may make them less likely to leak.

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