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Macular Edema

What is macular edema?

Macular edema is a swelling or thickening of the macula, a very small but important area at the center of the retina that is responsible for detailed central vision. This swelling occurs in response to fluid leaking from blood vessels in the retina.

While many conditions can cause macular edema, it is frequently associated with diabetic retinopathy. In fact, macula edema is the most common cause of vision loss for people with diabetes, particularly if it is left untreated. Macular edema can cause mild to severe vision loss, but regardless of the severity, you will likely retain peripheral (side) vision.

What causes macular edema?

While diabetic retinopathy is a main cause of macular edema, other conditions and factors can lead to this condition:

  • Eye surgery, including cataract surgery. Macular edema that develops after cataract surgery is called cystoid macular edema (CME).
  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Uveitis
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Retinal vein occlusion
  • Blockage in the small veins of the retina due to radiation therapy
  • Certain medications
  • Certain genetic disorders, such as retinoschisis and retinitis pigmentosa

What are symptoms of macular edema?

As it is developing, macular edema is often painless and you may notice few symptoms—or none at all. Symptoms that may indicate that the blood vessels in your eye are leaking include central vision that is wavy or blurry and the sensation that colors look different than usual or are "washed out."

If you notice any of these symptoms, you should contact Retina Vitreous Associates right away; if left untreated, macular edema can cause severe vision loss, and even blindness.