The Macula is the central part of the retina that provides you with the sharpest vision. The retina is a thin layer of tissue that lines the interior of the eye. It acts like the film in a camera, allowing the eye to see. Conditions that affect the macula can impair your central vision.
Diabetes over time can damage small blood vessels in the body, including those in the macula. When this happens, the damaged blood vessels leak fluid into the surrounding tissue and cause swelling of the macula. This swelling of the macula is called macular edema.
Diabetic macular edema can cause blurry or distorted vision when it involves the center of the macula. However, many patients with diabetic macular edema do not have any visual symptoms, and so it is important that you have a expert retinal exam each year. Unfortunately, diabetic macular edema is the leading cause of vision loss for many people with diabetes. The vision becomes permanently blurred even with new glasses and many cannot pass a drivers test or read without special assistance.
As specialists in diabetic retinopathy, our physicians can diagnose diabetic macular edema by direct examination. You may require additional testing including retinal photography, retinal scanning, or fluorescein angiography to plan the best treatment plan for your condition.
Treatments for diabetic macular edema continue to evolve.
Your doctor may advise that you undergo laser treatment to prevent further loss of vision. Several decades of research have proven that laser cuts the risk of moderate vision loss in half.
Laser treatment is performed in the office closest to your home. Before the surgery, your doctor will dilate your pupil and apply drops to numb the eye. The lights in the office will be dim. As you sit facing the laser machine, your doctor will hold a special lens to your eye. During the procedure, you may see flashes of light but you feel no pain. When finished, expect your vision to be quite blurry for about 10 minutes. This is normal and temporary, however you may notice some blurring for the remainder of the day. You will need someone to drive you home after surgery.
It usually takes several weeks to a few months for the swelling to subside. Your doctor will decide if more laser is necessary.
Laser is an indispensable tool in the treatment of DME, however some exciting new developments have recently become available to treat more advanced cases. We sometimes now treat diabetic macular edema with medications in or around the eye. These medicines are often combined with the laser therapy in more advanced cases of diabetic macular edema. After a careful evaluation, your doctor will decide what therapy or combination of therapies to recommend for your eyes.