What is Macular Edema
Macular edema is swelling or thickening of the eye’s macula, the part of your eye responsible for detailed, central vision. The macula is a very small area at the center of the retina—a thin layer of light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye. Light rays are focused onto the retina, where they are transmitted to the brain and interpreted as the images you see. It is the macula that is responsible for your pinpoint vision, allowing you to read, sew or recognize a face. Macular edema develops when blood vessels in the retina are leaking fluids. The macula does not function properly when it is swollen. Vision loss may be mild to severe, but in many cases, your peripheral (side) vision remains. Macular edema is often a complication of diabetic retinopathy, and is the most common form of vision loss for people with diabetes—particularly if it is left untreated.
What are the Symptoms?
Macular edema is often painless and may display few symptoms when it develops. When symptoms do occur, they are a sign that the blood vessels in your eye may be leaking. Symptoms of macular edema may include blurred or wavy central vision, or colors appear washed out or changed. If you have macular edema symptoms, you should see an ophthalmologist right away. If left untreated, macular edema can cause severe vision loss and even blindness.
What Treatment is Available?
If your ophthalmologist makes a macular edema diagnosis due to diabetes or retinal vein occlusion, focal laser treatment is often used to reduce swelling of the macula. With this form of laser surgery, your ophthalmologist applies many tiny laser pulses to areas of fluid leakage around the macula. The main goal of treatment is to stabilize vision by sealing off leaking blood vessels that interfere with the proper function of the macula. In some cases, vision loss may be improved with laser treatment.