Diabetic Macular Edema

Diabetic macular edema is a common cause of vision loss from diabetes. Normally, the small blood vessels in the retina do not leak. One of the early effects of diabetes is to cause the blood vessels in the retina to begin to leak by weakening the inner lining of the blood vessels so that they become porous. Leakage from the retinal blood vessels may cause the center of the retina, the Macula, to actually swell, a condition called diabetic macular edema. Diabetic macular edema can occur in any stage of diabetic retinopathy.

The Macula is responsible for central vision, and thus diabetic macular edema can result in vision loss of varying severity. The most effective and accurate ways to observe and diagnose Diabetic Macular Edema are to perform a careful dilated examination usually accompanied with a Fluorescein Angiogram (FA) and an Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT). Using the Fluorescein Angiogram, we will be able to precisely and directly observe the severity and location of “leaky” blood vessels. By using OCT, we can detect very slight thickness changes in the macula that may indicate the presence of leakage. It is important that leaking blood vessels be found as early as possible so that they can be most effectively treated. In most cases, early treatment will reduce the swelling and prevent further vision loss, but will not restore vision that has already been compromised.

It is also possible to have Diabetic Macular Edema and not have vision loss. Any diagnosis of diabetic macular edema is an indication that breakdown of the retinal blood vessels from diabetes is beginning and requires careful monitoring. In the discussion about your stage of diabetic retinopathy, we will also make specific recommendations about how often you will need to return for eye examinations and the need for additional photographs, Fluorescein Angiograms or OCT studies. Please be sure to keep these appointments, as they are critical in helping you maintain your eye health and vision.