Macular edema is swelling or thickening of the macula, a small area in the center of the retina that allows us to see fine details clearly. The swelling is caused by fluid leaking from retinal blood vessels. It is the most common cause of visual loss in diabetes. Vision loss may be mild to severe, but even in the worst cases, peripheral vision continues to function.
Diabetic macular edema doesn’t always have symptoms. You may see images directly in front of you appear blurry or wavy or colors that seem washed out. See your ophthalmologist right away if these occur.
There are many causes of macular edema. It is frequently associated with diabetes, where damaged blood vessels in the retina begin to leak fluids, including small amounts of blood, into the retina. Sometimes deposits of fats may leak inside the retina. This leakage causes the macula to swell.
Eye surgery, including cataract surgery, can increase your risk of developing macular edema due to blood vessels becoming irritated and leaking fluids. Macular edema that develops after cataract surgery is called cystoid macular edema (CME).
Some of the other macular edema causes include:
Your ophthalmologist will conduct a full eye exam which includes dilation to view your retina
To treat macular edema, your ophthalmologist may use drugs that are injected into your eyes to help stop leaking, and to slow the growth of new blood vessels. These drugs include:
Your ophthalmologist may use a tiny laser on your eye to seal leaking blood vessels. You may need more than one treatment to control the problem. It's usually not painful, but you may have slight stinging feeling when the laser touches you.
Another treatment is a surgery called vitrectomy. This is usually done because of bleeding (not macular edema). The ophthalmologist will take out the fluid that is clouding your vision and replace it with a clear solution.