A Patient’s Guide to Diabetic Macular Edema

Submitted by Elman Retina Group on July 23, 2021
Diabetic Eye Disease Information

Diabetes is an extremely prevalent public health concern. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 10 percent of our country’s population suffers from diabetes and that number is expected to continue to rise.

Poorly controlled diabetes is a leading cause of eye problems and blindness, so Elman Retina Group takes it very seriously. Our goal is to diagnose diabetic eye problems early, when they can be more easily managed in the clinic before permanent blindness occurs.

In this post, our doctors discuss one of the specific complications of diabetes: macular edema.

The Science and Development of Diabetic Macular Edema

Diabetic macular edema occurs when high levels of sugar in the blood affect the tiny blood vessels of the retina. The blood vessels develop tiny aneurysms and leak blood and fluid, which leads to thickening and swelling in the macula. When the macula is compromised, it affects central vision — i.e., the vision you rely on to recognize faces, read fine print and drive.

Discovering Signs of the Disease

If you have diabetes and notice that your central vision is blurry or wavy, diabetic macular edema may be to blame. Faces may become harder to recognize, and you may feel unsafe driving because the road or road signs are distorted. Another symptom of diabetic macular edema is seeing colors that appear dull or washed out.

The only way to know for sure what is causing your symptoms is to seek a diagnosis with a qualified retinal expert. Call Elman Retina Group promptly to set up an evaluation.

Living with Diabetic Macular Edema

Once you have received a diagnosis from our retinal specialists, we will recommend treatment tailored to your individual needs. These treatments help control the edema, but there is no “cure” other than good and consistent control of the overall diabetes and blood pressure.

Treatment Recommendations

Laser therapy has historically been used as a first-line therapy to shrink and close abnormal, leaking vessels. The laser energy creates a thermal response that seals off the vessels.

More recently, injections of “anti-VEGF” drugs into the eye have been shown to be very successful in cases of diabetic eye disease and better than laser in most cases. VEGF, or vascular endothelial growth factor, is a protein that triggers the development of irregular leaking blood vessels in people with diabetic eye disease. Anti-VEGF drugs block this protein, reducing or stopping the leakage and blood vessel growth. The injections are painless, and patients tolerate them very well.

Similarly, sometimes eye injections of steroids are very helpful. Diabetic macular edema oftentimes has an inflammatory component, so a steroid injection into the eye helps speed up the healing process.

Your Role in Managing Your Health

Another important component of managing diabetic macular edema is to keep your diabetes well-controlled. See your medical team regularly and have your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked. Take your medications according to your doctors’ instructions, and maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise.

Contact Elman Retina Group Today

For more information about living with diabetic macular edema or other eye-related complications of diabetes, Elman Retina Group is a trusted resource. Call or email us today.