Macular edema

Macular edema is a condition of fluid build-up (edema) in the macula of the eye. The macula is an extremely important component of the eye that is located in the retina; it contains an abundant amount of cones, which are the photoreceptors that allow the eye to respond to various colors. It only makes sense that damage to this area can cause vision changes, such as blurry vision or total vision loss. This is why macular edema is of such concern. Fortunately, there are treatments available, depending on the cause of the condition; the eye cannot rid of the excess fluid on its own, so treatment is necessary to prevent any long-lasting effects. There are different causes of macular edema, and identifying the cause is important in implementing treatment.

Causes
Macular edema occurs when fluid from nearby blood vessels or from some other source starts to leak into the macula, eventually leading to an accumulation. The result is a thickened and swollen macula. In turn, distorted vision is experienced. The reason for the unhindered flow of fluid varies. A common one is a complication from diabetes, called diabetic macular edema. Macular edema can be a result of cataract eye surgery or trauma to the eye, in which case it would be called cystoid macular edema (small pockets of fluid form in the eye). Eye conditions—retinal occlusion, macular degeneration, uveitis, chronic eye conditions, and more—are also causes of macular edema. Those who have had a problem with swelling in the macula once are more likely to get it again at some point, so it is a good idea to have regular check-ups or see an ophthalmologist at the first sign of the symptoms.

Symptoms
Symptoms, no matter the cause of the macular edema, are relatively similar. One symptom is blurred or decreased central vision, but no effect on peripheral (side) vision. Distorted vision is sometimes experienced, such as seeing things in waves. Macular edema is typically not painful or discomforting, so another symptom would be inflammation and swelling without pain. Sensitivity to light may also occur.

Diagnosis
Getting images of the eye is the best way to determine the diagnosis because it is easy to see the build-up of fluid this way.

Treatment
As mentioned above, the treatment for macular edema depends on the cause.

Diabetic Macular Edema
Diabetic macular edema is further classified into two types: focal and diffuse. This narrower classification more accurately determines the treatment. Focal macular edema is treated with focal laser treatment, which, in a manner of speaking, closes off the blood vessels so they stop leaking or to the point where the leaking is slowed considerably. Grid laser treatment is used for diffuse macular edema, which mildly burns the retina; the retina capillaries are the cause of diffuse macular edema.

Cystoid Macular Edema
There are different treatments of macular edema as well because of the multitude of causes. Corticosteroids and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce the swelling and inflammation; many types eye drops are given so the medicine can go directly to the eye. Sometimes, a vitrectomy can be useful, which is a procedure to remove the vitreous humor from the eye to reduce swelling.

Eye Conditions
If an eye condition is the cause, treating the underlying eye problem is the best way to treat the macular edema.

Follow-Up
As previously mentioned, an individual who has had a bout of macular edema is prone to experiencing the condition again. Furthermore, if the actual underlying cause is not addressed, undoubtedly macular edema will occur again. For example, those with poorly controlled diabetes need to get it under control so it doesn’t cause macular edema again. Going to regular eye exams with an eye doctor is the best way to keep macular edema under lock and key.

Last updated on Nov 19th, 2010 and filed under Vision Care. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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