Photodynamic Therapy for Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
What is photodynamic therapy for AMD?
Photodynamic therapy is a treatment for the eyes. It uses a laser and a special medicine
that works when exposed to a certain type of laser light. It is done to treat age-related
macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is a condition that can lead to vision loss.
The retina is the layer of nerve cells in the back of your eye. It changes light into
electrical signals. Your retina then sends these signals to your brain. AMD affects
your macula. The macula is the sensitive, central part of your retina. This area is
responsible for your detailed, central vision. AMD damages your macula. The macula
may become thinner as a result. Blood vessels may start growing under your retina.
This can cause fluid to leak under your macula. This excess fluid can lead to vision
Just before the procedure, an eye doctor (ophthalmologist) injects a medicine into
a vein in your arm. This medicine is sensitive to light. It collects in the abnormal
blood vessels under your macula. You are then given an anesthetic eye drop. Using
a special contact lens, the eye doctor then shines a laser into your eye for less
than 2 minutes. The light from the laser activates the medicine. The medicine then
creates blood clots in the abnormal blood vessels under your retina. This seals off
the vessels. This can help prevent more vision loss.
Why might I need photodynamic therapy for AMD?
Photodynamic therapy is 1 type of treatment for AMD. AMD is a common cause of major
eyesight loss in older adults. In rare cases, it can lead to blindness. It affects
your macula. So you may still have your side (peripheral) vision if you have AMD.
It may cause a sudden or slow loss of your central vision.
AMD comes in 2 main types: dry and wet. Only the wet type has abnormal blood vessel
growth. Photodynamic therapy is advised only as a possible therapy for wet AMD.
Photodynamic therapy often doesn't restore vision that you have already lost. But it
may slow down the damage to your central vision.
Photodynamic therapy is an option only for some people with wet AMD. It may be advised
if your vision loss happens slowly over time, not suddenly. The treatment is used
less often now that there are new medicines to reduce abnormal blood vessel growth.
But your healthcare provider may recommend it in addition to these newer medicines.
What are the risks of photodynamic therapy for AMD?
All procedures have risks. The risks of this procedure include:
A new blind spot
Back pain linked to injecting the medicine
Photosensitivity reactions such as sunburn, if your skin is exposed to direct sunlight
right after the procedure
Reactions where you had the light-activated medicine injected
Short-term (temporary) or lifelong (permanent) loss of visual sharpness, which is
Your risks may differ according to your age, other health problems, and the specific
anatomy of your AMD. Ask your eye doctor about your risks for the procedure.
The effects of photodynamic therapy are often short-term. This is because the abnormal
blood vessels may open up again.
How do I get ready for photodynamic therapy for AMD?
Ask your eye doctor what you need to do to get ready for photodynamic therapy. Ask
if you need to stop taking any medicines before the procedure.
Your eye doctor may want to use special tools to shine a light in your eye and examine
the back of your eye. You will need to have your eyes dilated for this eye exam. Your
eye doctor might order other special tests to get even more information about your
Before the procedure, eye drops will be used to dilate your pupil. It will stay dilated
for several hours after the procedure.
What happens during photodynamic therapy for AMD?
It is most often done as an outpatient procedure in an eye doctor’s office or eye
clinic. This means you will go home the same day. During a typical procedure:
You will be given an injection of the light-sensitive medicine.
You will be awake during the procedure. You may be given medicine to help you relax.
You will be given anesthetic eye drops to make sure you don’t feel anything.
You will have a special contact lens placed on your eye. This helps the laser focus
on exactly the right spot in the back of your eye.
Your eye doctor will shine the laser in the exact spot in your eye. This will activate
the light-sensitive medicine. The medicine will form blood clots in the abnormal vessels
under your macula. This seals off the abnormal blood vessels.
Your eye may be covered for a short time.
What happens after photodynamic therapy for AMD?
Ask your eye doctor about what you should expect after your procedure. You should
be able to go home the same day. Plan to have someone go home with you after the procedure.
For a few days after the procedure, your eyes and skin will be more sensitive to light.
This is due to the light-sensitive medicine. During this time, you will need to stay
indoors and stay out of direct sunlight. If you must go outside, use dark glasses
and protective clothing. Ask your eye doctor when it is safe for you to go outside
Your eye may be a little sore after the procedure. Talk with your eye doctor about
taking over-the-counter pain medicine. Follow your eye doctor’s orders about eye care
You will need close follow-up care with your eye doctor. They will closely watch you
for complications and keep managing your treatment for AMD. Tell your eye doctor right
away if you have decreased vision or increased eye redness, swelling, or pain. Your
vision may be blurry for a short while after the procedure. But this often goes away.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:
The name of the test or procedure
The reason you are having the test or procedure
What results to expect and what they mean
The risks and benefits of the test or procedure
What the possible side effects or complications are
When and where you are to have the test or procedure
Who will do the test or procedure and what that person’s qualifications are
What would happen if you did not have the test or procedure
Any alternative tests or procedures to think about
When and how you will get the results
Who to call after the test or procedure if you have questions or problems
How much you will have to pay for the test or procedure