Diabetic Macular Edema (DME)

Diabetic Macular Edema (DME) is an accumulation of fluid in the macula—part of the retina that controls our most detailed vision abilities—due to leaking blood vessels. In order to develop DME, you must first have diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is a disease that damages the blood vessels in the retina, resulting in vision impairment. Left untreated, these blood vessels begin to build up pressure in the eye and leak fluid, causing DME. DME usually takes on two forms:

  • Focal DME, which occurs because of abnormalities in the blood vessels in the eye.
  • Diffuse DME, which occurs because of widening/swelling retinal capillaries (very thin blood vessels).

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)
  • Hyperlipidemia (high levels of fats in the blood)


Common symptoms of DME are :

  • blurry vision,
  • floaters,
  • double vision,
  • eventually blindness if it goes untreated.

What is the treatment?

The treatments for focal and diffuse DME differ, but they both involve laser procedures. Most doctors use focal laser treatment to treat focal DME and grid laser treatment to treat diffuse DME. The goal of both kinds of procedures is to stop the leakage in the macula.


Sometimes, there is nothing you can do to prevent diabetic retinopathy or DME, but your best chance at avoiding them comes by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, exercising regularly, eating lots of vegetables and fruit, and visiting your eye doctor at least once a year to stay on top of your eye health.


Myths / Frequently Asked Questions

1What are the symptoms of diabetic macular edema?
Answer: The primary symptom of macular edema is blurry or wavy vision near or in the center of your field of vision. Colors might also appear washed out or faded. Most people with macular edema will have symptoms that range from slightly blurry vision to noticeable vision loss.
2Can diabetic macular edema be cured?
Answer: Diabetic retinopathy: Doctors treat diabetic macular edema (DME) in two ways. First, they tackle what's causing it, like high blood sugar or high blood pressure. Just keeping your levels close to normal can stop eye damage from happening or getting worse. The next step is to heal your retina.
3How serious is macular edema?
Answer: If untreated, chronic macular edema can lead to irreversible damage of the macula and permanent vision loss. Macular edema is typically caused by increased leakage from damaged retinal blood vessels or growth of abnormal blood vessels in the deep retina.
4Is diabetic macular edema reversible?
Answer: Macular edema is reversible in the early stages but chronic edema may lead to irreversible changes in the retina.
5Does macular edema go away by itself?
Answer:The macular edema may take up to four months to go away. If the swelling does not go away after that time or it comes back later, the laser treatment can be repeated.
6Can high blood pressure cause macular edema?
Answer: In some cases, the retina becomes swollen. Over time, high blood pressure can cause damage to the retina's blood vessels, limit the retina's function, and put pressure on the optic nerve, causing vision problems. This condition is called hypertensive retinopathy (HR).
7What foods should be avoided with macular degeneration?
  • Eating right can help lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration.
  • Avoid highly processed snack foods such as cakes, cookies, potato chips.
  • Avoid partially hydrogenated fats, especially coconut oils.
  • Eat a diet low in fat.
8Can diabetes cause bleeding inside the eye?
Answer:Yes. This is the most important sign of diabetic retinopathy. In early stages, the bleeding is very minimal, in the form of small aneurysms. These areas may leak. In later stages, the retina loses its blood supply and new blood vessels grow. These new blood vessels are very weak and cause bleeding inside the eye.
9What is the treatment for bleeding inside the eye during diabetes?
Answer:In early stages, an angiogram is done to detect the sites of bleeding and proper and timely laser treatment to clog these sites can prevent further loss of your vision. In later stages, surgery is done to remove the blood.
10Is macular edema permanent?
Answer:Macular edema (ME) is the swelling of the macula, a tiny spot in the retina critical for clear vision. When ME is left untreated visual symptoms can become worse and permanent damage to the retina can occur.
11How does diabetes cause macular edema?
Answer:High blood sugar weakens the blood vessels in your eyes. That can make them leak or grow out of control in your retina, the light-sensitive area at the back of your eye. This is called diabetic retinopathy. When fluid seeps into your retina, it can cause diabetic macular edema.