What Is Macular Edema?
Macular edema is swelling in part of the retina, the light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of your eye. When fluid builds up in the macula, an important area in the center of the retina, it causes swelling that results in distorted vision.
This fluid buildup is usually leakage from damaged blood vessels. Damaged and leaking blood vessels in the eye can be caused by a number of medical conditions, including diabetes and age-related macular degeneration.
Symptoms of Macular Edema
Macular edema is painless, and you may not have symptoms when you first get it. The main symptoms of macular edema are blurry vision and vision that gets worse over time.
You may also notice:
- Objects look wavy, especially when you look straight ahead
- Objects appear to be different sizes if you look out of one eye and then the other
- Colors look dull or faded
- Difficulty reading
Macular edema can cause vision loss if it is not treated, so you should protect your vision by getting annual eye exams and visiting your eye doctor if you experience any unusual symptoms.
Diagnosing Macular Edema
Eye exams and imaging are used to diagnose macular edema. During an eye exam, your eye doctor will dilate your pupils in order to see your retina, which is in the back of your eye.
There are two other tests your eye doctor may perform to get a more detailed look at the inside of your eye:
- Optical coherence tomography (OCT): OCT is a way to look closely at the retina. A machine will scan your retina and provide very detailed pictures of its thickness. These pictures allow your eye doctor to identify leaking blood vessels and measure the swelling of the macula.
- Fluorescein angiography: During this test, a yellow dye called fluorescein is injected into a vein, usually in your arm. As this dye travels through your blood vessels, a special camera takes pictures of your retina. These pictures show whether any blood vessels are leaking and how much leakage there is.
Macular Edema Treatment Options
The best treatment for macular edema is to address the underlying condition that is causing the blood vessel leakage and retinal swelling.
To treat existing macular edema and prevent further damage to your eyes, treatments range from medication to surgery. Depending on what is causing macular edema, your eye doctor can provide several treatments:
- Medication injections: Medications called anti-VEGF drugs help reduce the amount of abnormal blood vessels in your retina and also decrease leakage from blood vessels. The medicine is delivered to your eye through a very slender needle.
- Steroid treatment: When macular edema is caused by inflammation or blood vessel leakage, it can be treated with steroid medicine. This medicine can be given as eye drops, pills, or injections.
- Eye drop medication: To treat certain kinds of cystoid macular edema (CTE), your eye doctor may prescribe steroid eye drops, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) eye drops, or dorzolamide eye drops for a few months.
- Laser treatment: During laser surgery, your eye doctor applies tiny laser pulses to seal off leaking blood vessels near the macula. This procedure is intended to stabilize your vision.
- Vitrectomy surgery: When macular edema is caused by the vitreous pulling on the macula, an in-office procedure called a pneumatic vitreolysis or a surgical procedure called a vitrectomy may be required. These procedures restore the macula to its normal shape, lying flat. During pneumatic vitreolysis, a small gas bubble is injected into the eye to help separate the vitreous from the macula. During a vitrectomy, your eye doctor will use tiny instruments to remove the vitreous from the eye and remove scar tissue from the macula. This process relieves the tension that is damaging the macula.
Macular edema may take several months to resolve, depending on what is causing it and the treatment plan your eye doctor recommends.
Contact Toledo LASIK for Expert Eye Care
If you’re experiencing symptoms of macular edema or have concerns about your vision, don’t hesitate to consult our skilled eye surgeons for the proper treatment to protect your vision.
Call us at 419-484-3710 or schedule your free consultation today.