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What is Visudyne®?

By H. Lo
Updated May 17, 2024
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Visudyne®, also known as verteporfin, is a photosensitizing agent used for the treatment of wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), pathologic myopia and ocular histoplasmosis. The medication is administered as an injection and activated by laser light through photodynamic therapy (PDT). In the procedure, the light enables the medication to combat cells contributing to the serious eye condition. Use of the medication helps to prevent the decline of vision or eventual blindness due to abnormal and leaky blood vessels.

During the procedure itself, the doctor will inject the medication into a vein over a period of 10 minutes. About 15 minutes after the start of the procedure, the doctor will shoot a laser light into the eye. Side effects of Visudyne® include weakness, dry or itchy eyes and reactions at the site of the injection such as pain or swelling. Serious side effects that might require a patient to consult a doctor include chest pain, sweating and vision changes such as blurring or black spots.

AMD is an eye disease that occurs with age where damage of the macula results in loss of central vision. The macula is displaced by blood and fluids leaking from the growth of abnormal blood vessels. This disease makes it hard to see clearly and straight ahead, interfering with a person’s ability to perform daily activities. Dry AMD is slow to progress and occurs in stages, whereas wet AMD is an advanced form of the disease in which macula damage is quick. Left untreated, central vision loss may be permanent.

Myopia is nearsightedness that can typically be corrected with a prescription for glasses or contacts as well as through eye surgery. When myopia is severe, it is called pathologic myopia or degenerative nearsightedness. Oftentimes, the condition is made worse by the growth of abnormal blood vessels underneath the macula.

Histoplasmosis is a disease caused by an infection with the Histoplasma capsulatum fungus. Airborne spores of the fungus are inhaled, which is why the disease usually occurs in the lungs. In some cases, this fungal infection spreads to the eyes, causing ocular histoplasmosis. As with AMD and pathologic myopia, in ocular histoplasmosis, abnormal blood vessels grow and eventually affect the macula.

Before moving forward with Visudyne® treatment, patient information such as allergies or medications should be disclosed to the doctor. Existing conditions such as liver problems or porphyria should also be disclosed. Surgery, including dental surgery, should not be undergone for at least five days after Visudyne® injection. In addition, after treatment, the patient should also avoid direct sunlight or bright lights for the same amount of time.

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