Individuals with diabetes need to see their eye doctors regularly. Some individuals with this chronic condition develop macular edema in the macula. The macula is the part of the eye responsible for straight-ahead vision.
If fluid leaks from blood vessels into the macula, it swells and thickens. This leads to a vision that is not clear. If treatment is not received, the person may become blind. Diabetic macular edema affects individuals with type 1 and type 2 diabetes and is related to uncontrolled blood sugar levels. Individuals with other health problems, such as high cholesterol, are at an increased risk of this condition.
If caught early, macular edema is treatable. This treatment usually halts vision loss and may even reverse it. Visit dmeandme.com for more information on this condition. The following provides a basic overview of what individuals should know about diabetic macular edema.
Symptoms of Macular Edema
Diabetics must watch for wavy lines in their vision. These lines are most noticeable when looking straight ahead. If an object appears to be one size when looking out of one eye and a different size when looking out of the other eye, call the eye doctor for an appointment immediately. In addition, when colors appear faded or dull, make an appointment to be seen.
As the swelling progresses, vision may become blurred or the person might begin seeing double. When the number of eye floaters increases significantly, macular edema may be to blame. Vision loss can also be attributed to this condition.
What Causes Diabetic Macular Edema?
When a person’s blood sugar levels aren’t controlled, the small blood vessels in the eye are damaged. In addition, high blood pressure or high cholesterol can harm the blood vessels. Diabetic women who are pregnant need to see their eye doctor, as pregnancy may increase their risk of developing this condition.
Diabetic Macular Edema Risk Factors
Anyone with diabetes may develop macular edema. Those with uncontrolled blood sugar levels remain most at risk, particularly when the person also suffers from high cholesterol or blood pressure. However, other things also increase a person’s risk of this condition.
Any diabetic who has also been diagnosed with kidney disease will need frequent eye exams. Individuals who are obese or have a tendency to retain fluid will need to have their eyes examined routinely. The same holds for individuals who suffer from sleep apnea and those who have had cataract surgery.
However, individuals with type 1 diabetes are more likely to develop this complication. In fact, most people who have been living with type 1 diabetes for more than 20 years will have diabetic retinopathy, a precursor to macular edema. Men are more at risk of this condition than women, but every diabetic needs to schedule regular eye exams to catch and treat this condition early.
Additional Causes of Macular Edema
Macular edema also has other causes. For example, age-related macular degeneration can lead to this condition. Also known as wet macular degeneration, this health issue involves the leaking of abnormal blood vessels into or under the retina. A genetic disease known as retinitis pigmentosa can also bring about swelling in the macula.
Anyone diagnosed with uveitis must watch for signs of macular edema. When a person’s immune system attacks the tissue in the eye, uveitis develops. This condition can bring about swelling in any part of the eye.
Retinal vein occlusion is a blockage in one or more veins in the retina. This prevents blood from draining, so the blood leaks into the macula. Finally, certain medications, such as those used to address glaucoma, can contribute to the development of macular edema.
Diagnosing Diabetic Macular Edema
When a diabetic visits the eye doctor, they will have their eyes dilated. Doing so allows the doctor to see the retina and other parts of the eye to examine them for damage. If the doctor needs a more detailed look, they will scan the retina to determine its thickness with the help of optical coherence tomography.
A fluorescein angiography may need to be done to see how blood flows through the vessels in the eye. During this test, the doctor injects a yellow dye into the veins. They then use a special camera to take pictures of the retina as the dye moves through the eye. This allows the doctor to see the extent of the damage.
Additional tests the doctor may recommend include an Amsler grid test and the visual acuity test. The Amsler grid is used to test a person’s central vision by having the patient look at a grid to see if any parts appear distorted or dark. The visual acuity test is the one most people are familiar with. The patient is asked to read a chart of letters.
Treating Macular Edema
Unfortunately, at this time, there is no cure for macular edema. The goal of treatment is to slow the progression of the disease while preventing additional damage. While the doctor may be able to reverse any damage if the disease is caught early enough, the retina permanently changes if the disease isn’t caught quickly.
To receive the best results from any treatment, the diabetic must get their blood sugar levels under control. The doctor may inject anti-vascular endothelial growth factor into the eye to stop the development of abnormal blood vessels. This medication also helps minimize the leakage from any blood vessels that have sustained damage. A patient will need several injections, but this treatment may improve vision and is now considered the standard treatment for macular edema.
Some patients receive corticosteroids as part of a treatment plan, or the doctor might recommend laser treatment or surgery. This depends on what the doctor finds during their exam and the test results. Speak with the doctor to learn about the benefits and drawbacks of each option.
Diabetic macular edema is a common condition seen in individuals with this chronic disease. For this reason, any person who has diabetes will need to see their eye doctor regularly. Make an appointment today, as your vision is too precious to lose.