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Diabetic-Related Macular Edema

May also be called: DME

​​Diabetes is the leading cause of new blindness in the United States, with Diabetic-Related Macular Edema (DME) contributing greatly to this vision loss. DME may affect up to 10% of people with diabetes.

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Condition Information

Diabetic macular edema (DME) is the most common cause of vision loss in patients with diabetic retinopathy.9 Diabetic macular edema is the thickening of the retina (light-sensitive layers in the back of the eye that transmit visual information to the brain) with or without the presence of exudates in the central vision area, called the macula.8, 10

Diabetic macular edema (DME) is the most common cause of vision loss in patients with diabetic retinopathy.9 Diabetic macular edema is the thickening of the retina (light-sensitive layers in the back of the eye that transmit visual information to the brain) with or without the presence of exudates in the central vision area, called the macula.8, 10 Exudates, white or yellow deposits on the macula, occur as a result of protein leakage from retinal blood vessels.2

Diabetic macular edema is caused by uncontrolled blood sugar in the body, in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Both elevated blood sugar and fluctuating blood sugar can cause changes to blood vessel structure in the retina. Weakening of the blood vessels causes them to become leaky, leading to a buildup of fluid in the macula.9 Systemic conditions, like high blood pressure and high cholesterol along with diabetes can increase the risk of developing diabetic macular edema.1 Patients who have had diabetes for a longer period of time are at a higher risk of developing diabetic macular edema.

Comprehensive dilated eye exam: examination of the retina, including the macula, by an eye care practitioner.

Ocular coherence tomography (OCT): scan through retinal layers to view if any fluid is present within these layers.3

Fluorescein angiography: intravenous injection of dye that shows blood circulation in the retina to determine the presence and severity of leaking blood or tissue ischemia (lack of oxygen to the retina).7

Fundus photography: photograph of the retina, including the macula; excellent method for assessing progression of disease and efficacy of management.7

Diabetic macular edema can affect the eyes and cause vision changes in multiple ways, including blurry vision, double vision in one eye, increase in floaters, distortion of details seen, and even areas that become missing in a patient’s vision.5 When diabetic retinopathy occurs, fluid builds up within retinal layers of our central vision, which can cause irreversible scarring and decreased vision if not treated promptly.1

Anti-VEGF injection: injections into the jelly-portion of our eye are used to minimize fluid development within the macula.

Steroid implant: implant in the eye that slowly releases a steroid to reduce inflammation under the macula.4

Retinal laser photocoagulation: prevents areas of neovascularization (leaky, weak blood vessels that can lead to scarring) from developing further.

Diabetic macular edema has the potential to cause significant irreversible vision loss. Ensuring adequate control of blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol are important in preventing the presence or worsening of diabetic retinopathy, including diabetic macular edema. Follow-up appointments as recommended by a patient’s primary care doctor, specialists, and eye care providers is essential in monitoring disease progression in diabetic patients. There are many resources for patients who suffer from vision loss associated with diabetic macular edema. Low vision aids can assist in performing daily activities, like reading, taking public transportation, and even moving around one’s home. Some of these devices include magnifiers, bright reading lights, and phone applications, like Be My Eyes.6

The content provided on this page is provided for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice and consultation. Please consult your eye care or health care provider if you are seeking medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Click here for our full legal disclaimer.

Contact us for a DME trial near you

It was good to be on a trial because it gives you a comfort factor that somebody is taking notice of what is happening to your eyes.

Cynthia
Macular Degeneration Clinical Trial Participant

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