Diabetic macular oedema

Diabetic eye disease is a leading cause of blindness registration among working age adults in England and Wales. It is caused by changes to the tiny blood vessels of the retina (the light sensitive layer at the back of the eye). In diabetic macular oedema, blood vessels leak fluid into the retina.

Diabetic eye disease is a leading cause of blindness registration among working age adults in England and Wales. It is caused by changes to the tiny blood vessels of the retina (the light sensitive layer at the back of the eye). In diabetic macular oedema, blood vessels leak fluid into the retina.

How does diabetic macular oedema cause vision loss?

Vision loss occurs when the fluid reaches the macula (the centre of the retina that provides sharp vision) and builds up, causing swelling. At first, you may not notice changes to your vision. Over time, diabetic macular oedema can cause your central vision to become blurred. A healthy macula is essential for good vision.

Who is at risk of diabetic macular oedema?

All people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes are at risk of diabetic macular oedema.

You are at greater risk if you:

  • Have had diabetes for a long time–about one in three people living with diabetes for 20 years or more will develop diabetic macular oedema
  • Have poorly controlled blood sugars
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have high cholesterol levels
  • Smoking
  • Are pregnant

Large studies have shown that people who have well-controlled blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and do not smoke are less likely to develop diabetic macular oedema.

How to reduce the risks of diabetic macula oedema

To reduce the risk of diabetic macular oedema, it is important not to smoke and to ensure that your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels are well controlled. This can be achieved by regular visits to your diabetes nurse, general practitioner or hospital doctor.

Please ask to see the diabetes specialist nurse at Moorfields if you wish to discuss any aspects of your diabetes management.

How is diabetic macular oedema detected?

Diabetic macula oedema may be detected during your annual eye screening visits, which are offered to all patients with diabetes. Digital photographs of your retina may show signs of early diabetic macular oedema. You may not notice any changes in your vision at this stage.

If diabetic macular oedema is detected, you will be referred to the medical retina clinic at Moorfields for further assessment. If you are attending clinics at Moorfields, you do not need to attend your local diabetes eye screening programme. If you do not require treatment or when your treatment is complete, you will be discharged from Moorfields. After being discharged, it is important to resume attending your annual local diabetes eye screening appointments.