For patients that have been diagnosed with diabetic macula edema (DME), taking in all the information at once can be overwhelming. DME is a serious eye condition that can significantly impact a person’s quality of life if left untreated. This article will discuss DME in depth so patients understand the condition and how to manage it.
Causes of DME
DME is an eye condition that affects the eyes of people with diabetes. It can lead to a loss of central vision and decreased quality of life. What is DME? This condition occurs when fluid collects in the macula, the part of the retina responsible for clear, fine vision required for reading and recognizing faces.
The most common cause of DME is diabetic retinopathy, an eye complication associated with diabetes. Long-term high blood sugar levels can damage the tiny blood vessels in the back of the eye, leading to retinal thickening and swelling, which causes DME. Long-term high blood pressure can also significantly contribute to this condition by causing changes in delicate macula tissue caused by extra fluid leakage.
Symptoms of DME
Early signs and symptoms of DME may go unnoticed, so it is essential to become aware of them in order to seek proper diagnosis and treatment. These symptoms can include:
- Blurring or distortion of central vision.
- Difficulty perceiving colors clearly and “floaters” in the field of vision.
- Foggy or dimming vision.
- Difficulty performing tasks that require good central vision, such as threading a needle.
- Having slightly distorted peripheral (side) vision.
Ignoring even one of these signs could damage a person’s vision. Therefore, it is highly recommended to consult an ophthalmologist if any of these symptoms occur.
How to Diagnose DME
There are several ways that a health care provider can diagnose DME.
Dilated Eye Exam
A dilated eye exam is one of the most important tests for diagnosing DME. During this examination, the eye specialist will use drops to widen the patient’s pupil. This allows more light to enter the eye and gives them a better view of the back tissue to check for retinal swelling. By looking at a fundus photograph, eye care professionals can identify any leaking fluid or abnormalities in that area as they are related to DME.
Additionally, they would assess color changes in the macula, which could indicate that damage has been done due to fluid buildup. These images come in handy since they provide a blueprint of information about what is happening inside an individual’s eyes and contribute essential data to their diagnosis and eventual treatment.
Optical Coherence Tomography
This sophisticated imaging technology uses light waves to take a cross-sectional picture of the back of an eye. An ophthalmologist can then use that image to detect fluid accumulation, a sign of DME, and other early indicators of diabetic retinopathy. The earliest stages of DME have also been known to produce visual distortions such as blurriness or blind spots that one should report immediately to their doctor for further evaluation.
One-way doctors use to diagnose DME is through a specialized test known as a fluorescein angiogram. With this test, a fluorescent dye is injected into the arm, and then photos of the eye are taken at various intervals to measure blood flow within the vessels of the retina. The results can indicate whether there is damage due to diabetic macula edema, which helps the doctor plan for proper treatment.
Treatment for DME
Understanding what to look for and taking preventive steps can slow or even halt DME in its early stages. Treatment options vary depending on patients’ circumstances but typically include regular monitoring of blood sugar levels, laser therapy, anti-VEGF medicines injected into the eye, and further surgery as needed. Those with diabetes or pre-diabetes must be aware of the symptoms of DME so they may take action to protect their sight accordingly.
DME is a potentially sight-threatening condition caused by fluid accumulating in the center of the eye, called the macula. While it can affect anyone with diabetes, controlling blood sugar levels and checkups with an ophthalmologist may reduce the risk of developing DME. There are several treatment methods for DME, including laser treatment. This is done using a high-energy and focused light beam to break up growing unhealthy cells without damage to normal cells.
Though the laser increases the risk of temporary vision loss due to inflammation, on the whole, it can significantly enhance vision by shrinking pathological vessels found in DME. Therefore, regular visits with an eye doctor provide an opportunity for early diagnosis and effective treatment options that will help reduce the severity of DME and improve vision over time.
DME can cause irreversible vision loss from decreased central vision, making it necessary to seek effective and efficient treatments. Fortunately, when diagnosed in its early stages, DME can be arrested with specific treatments that slow down the progression of vision loss. One such treatment is anti-VEGF injections: shots that contain a compound called VEGF-A which both inhibits the growth of new vessels and reduces outer macula swelling. They are delivered directly into the eye, inhibiting the vein growth at its source and allowing fluid to leak into the eye’s bloodstream. Such injections have been found quite effective in arresting symptoms and reducing blood cell blockages leading to further vision degeneration.
Use of Corticosteroids
Corticosteroids are being used more and more to treat DME, as clinical trials have demonstrated their efficacy for this purpose. Corticosteroids, which can be administered orally or through an injection directly into the eye, thin the blood vessels around the macula, thus reducing swelling and improving sight. Patients should follow their health care provider’s instructions carefully throughout treatment to manage their condition and achieve optimal results.
DME is a common complication of diabetes that affects the central part of the vision. It can be caused by fluid rising in the macula. Fortunately, various treatments are available to help improve vision impairment caused by DME. One such treatment is vitrectomy surgery, in which blood and fluid are removed from behind the retina.
As a result, scar tissue at the back of the eye can be replaced with healthy tissue. Other beneficial treatments include laser therapy, intravitreal injections, and anti-VEGF injections. These treatments not only reduce swelling but also improve vision clarity as well as prevent blindness from DME.
Diabetic Macula Edema can significantly impact vision and needs to be taken seriously. Communicating openly with a doctor about any vision changes and incorporating lifestyle changes helps manage symptoms and reduce the risk of complications. Maintaining regular checkups and attending follow-up appointments is critical for managing the progression of this disease. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and monitoring blood sugar levels are all integral components of managing diabetes-related eye issues.