Learning About Macular Edema

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Side view of the eye, showing the macula area of the retina

What is macular edema?

The macula is a small but important area on the nerve layer (retina) in the back your eye. It helps you see clearly and focus on what is in front of you.

Edema means swelling. Macular edema is swelling of the macula. It happens when tiny blood vessels in the retina leak blood and other fluids into the area around the macula, causing it to swell. The swelling usually doesn't hurt.

When you have this swelling, your vision may be fuzzy. Straight lines may look curvy. You may also have a dark spot in the center of your field of vision.

Your doctor can find out if you have macular edema by using tests that check the blood vessels in the back of your eye.

This condition is usually caused by problems from diabetes. High blood sugar can harm the tiny blood vessels in the retina. Other eye problems can also cause it.

How is it treated?

Treatment depends on the cause. If the condition is caused by diabetes, you may be able to avoid or slow the damage by keeping your blood sugar and blood pressure levels in your target range.

Your doctor may talk to you about treatment options such as:

  • Treating the swelling with medicine that is injected into your eye.
  • Closing the leaks in the blood vessels with laser treatment.

Be sure to follow your doctor's treatment plan. It can take weeks or months for macular edema to heal.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.