Diabetic Macular Edema

Diabetic Macular Edema (DME) can occur if the swelling, leaking, and hard exudates noted in background diabetic retinopathy occur within the macula, the central 5% of the retina most critical to vision. Common symptoms of DME are blurry vision, floaters, double vision, and eventually blindness if it goes untreated.

DME is associated with:

  • those who have had diabetes for an extended amount of time,
  • severe hypertension (high blood pressure),
  • fluid retention,
  • hypoalbuminemia (low levels of protein in body fluids),
  • and hyperlipidemia (high levels of fats in the blood).
Photo of macular edema from the National Eye Institute

The white areas in the picture are components of the blood which have leaked out of the weak vessel walls. This very small area is rich in cones, the nerve endings that detect color and upon which daytime vision depends. Blurring occurs in the middle or just to the side of the central visual field, rather like looking through cellophane. Visual loss may progress over a period of months and can be very annoying because of the inability to focus clearly. DME is a common cause of severe visual impairment.

DME can be treated with laser surgery but does not always provide improved vision. The normal recovery time for laser surgery is 3-6 months. During recovery, you can expect sensitivity to light, irritation in the eye, and black spots in the center of your vision. Those are all normal side effects and should disappear with time.

Use the Amsler grid to check your eyes for macular edema.

You can find more info on the American Diabetes Association Eye Complications page.