Photodynamic Therapy With Visudyne® (Verteporfin)

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: May 2023

Macular degeneration, especially age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common progressive eye condition and a main cause of vision loss in people over the age of 50. Although it is not curable, there are various treatments for the condition.1

These treatments will not reverse the course of macular degeneration, nor will they completely stop it, but they can help slow the disease progression and help to preserve existing vision. One of these treatments is photodynamic therapy (PDT).

What is photodynamic therapy (PDT)?

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a treatment for wet AMD that uses both a laser and a medicine called Visudyne® (generic name verteporfin) that is activated when exposed to light. It is only indicated for wet AMD, where abnormal blood vessels grow underneath the macula. These blood vessels can leak or bleed, damaging your macula and impairing your vision.2

Myopic macular degeneration, or MMD, is similar to wet AMD in that abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina and can leak into that space, damaging the retina and impairing vision. While it is not the same as wet AMD, treatments are often similar. While PDT used to be used for MMD, long-term results have not been sustained.3

PDT is usually done as an outpatient in a doctor’s office. Your eye will be dilated and numbed using eyedrops prior to the procedure. The Visudyne dye is then injected into a vein in your arm, which then travels through the bloodstream to the abnormal blood vessels under the retina. Using a special contact lens, your eye doctor will then shine the laser into your eye, activating the light-sensitive dye to seal off the abnormal blood vessels.2

After the procedure, your eye might be covered temporarily.

Preparing for PDT

Before the procedure, your eye doctor may examine your eye or perform certain tests to obtain more information about your eye health. Ask your doctor what the preparations for PDT entail. They might also ask you to stop taking certain medications before the procedure.

Before beginning treatment for macular degeneration, tell your doctor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you take. This includes over-the-counter drugs.

Risks of PDT

As with any medical procedure, there are risks to PDT. These can include:2

  • Light sensitivity – since the dye is still in your blood until cleared by the body
  • Allergic reaction to the dye
  • Temporary blurred vision
  • New blind spot (less likely than traditional laser photocoagulation)

These are not all the possible side effects of PDT. Talk to your doctor about what to expect with PDT. You also should call your doctor if you have any changes that concern you about PDT.

After the procedure

You will be able to go home shortly after PDT, but you will need someone to drive you home from the appointment. Visudyne is a drug that has light-sensitive properties, so after PDT, your eyes and skin might be more sensitive to the sun for a few days.2,4

Try to stay inside for a few days. If you do go outside, take precautions: wear sunglasses and a hat, avoid direct sunlight, and wear sunscreen or long sleeves. Your doctor can let you know when you can safely go outside again.

Post-procedure care

Some eye soreness and blurry vision are to be expected post-procedure. Ask your doctor if over-the-counter medications are safe for you to take. Follow all eye care instructions that are given to you after the procedure.

You will have follow-up visits so your doctor can monitor you and ensure that there are no complications and that you’re healing properly. Tell your doctor if you experience anything out of the ordinary, like redness, severe pain, swelling, or worsening vision.

Is PDT appropriate for you?

If you have wet AMD, ask your doctor whether PDT is a treatment option for you. They can tell you more about the procedure, the risks and benefits, and whether you’re a candidate for it. It is not a cure for AMD, and it is not meant to be a long-term solution. Since the effects of the laser are often temporary, you may require repeat procedures.

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