The macula is the most important part of the retina and it is responsible for your central vision. Macular edema occurs when the retina’s ability to absorb fluid is overwhelmed by the fluid leaking into it. In the retina, blisters of fluid can form and swell the retina—this is macular edema. Macular edema by itself is not a disease but occurs as a side effect of various eye conditions, systemic diseases or medications. It is most often seen in patients with diabetes, macular degeneration or blood vessel diseases.
What are the Symptoms of Macular Edema?
The more widespread, thicker and severe the swelling becomes, the more likely you will notice symptoms like:
- Blurry, distorted vision
- Difficulty reading
What are the Types of Macular Edema?
Diabetic Macular Edema (DME) is a complication of diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes damages blood vessels causing them to leak fluid into the retina. The accumulation of fluid in the central retina is called macular edema and this can decrease your vision.
Cystoid Macular Edema (CME) CME occurs when the fluid accumulating in the macula is in a cyst-like pattern. This condition can be seen after eye surgery and in certain eye diseases like retinal vein occlusions.
How is Macular Edema Treated?
Treatment for macular edema depends on the cause. If it is secondary to systemic diseases like diabetes or high blood pressure then the first step is to make sure that the disease is being managed by a primary care physician. There are various treatment options depending on the cause for macular edema including injections, eye drops, laser or surgery. Your retina specialist will recommend the best treatment option for you depending on your findings.
Intravitreal injections (IVI)
IVI is an office procedure performed under topical anesthesia in which medication is placed inside the eye. IVI with anti-VEGF medications is performed by our trained retina specialists with meticulous monitoring of treatment efficacy and detection of rare but potentially serious complications. IVI is considered one of the most commonly performed medical procedures today. Due to their excellent results in improving vision, anti-VEGF injections are often the first-line treatment for many conditions that cause macular edema.
Lasers can also be used to address macular edema in certain instances. Your retina specialist will be able to determine if you are a candidate for this office-based procedure after examining your eyes and performing imaging studies.
Eye drops are most often used to treat macular edema that is a result of inflammation in the eye. This type of macular edema is most commonly seen after eye surgery or in patients with intraocular inflammatory eye disease.
Surgery is used to treat macular edema that results from scar tissue forming on top of the retina. In some patients, a fibrotic membrane will grow on top of the retina or pull on the retina causing it to swell. Your retina specialist will be able to determine if this is the cause of your macular edema by performing a dilated eye examination and taking scans of the eye.
Schedule an appointment with our Houston retina specialist to see if treatment is right for you.