Help and frequently asked questions

What is macular oedema?


Macular oedema is the swelling or thickening of the macula, which is the part of the retina responsible for pinpoint vision tasks such as reading and recognising faces. The condition develops when blood vessels in the retina begin seeping fluids, and if left untreated macular oedema can cause mild to severe vision loss and even blindness. In most cases, peripheral vision will be unaffected.

What causes macular oedema?

Macular oedema is a common form of vision loss in people who have diabetes. Damaged blood vessels associated with the condition begin to leak fluids - including blood and even fat deposits - into the retina. This causes the macular to swell. However, there are a number of other causes. The condition is also associated with cataract surgery, as the operation can irritate blood vessels. This is called cystoid macular oedema. Other causes include:

  • Certain genetic disorders (retinoschisis or retinitis pigmentosa)
  • Retinal vein occlusion
  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Uveitis
  • The side effects from some medications

How do I know if I have macular oedema?

Macular oedema often displays minimal symptoms in the early stages and is usually painless. People with the condition may experience blurred or wavy central vision and colours can appear faded or washed out.If these symptoms occur, it can be a sign the blood vessels in the eye are leaking and you should see an ophthalmologist as soon as possible. Failure to do so could result in severe vision impairment and eventual blindness in some cases.

What treatments are available for macular oedema?

There are a number of treatments available for macular oedema depending on the cause of the condition. Focal laser treatment is common in cases where the underlying cause is diabetes or retinal vein occlusion. This involves your eye specialist applying small laser bursts to the leaking areas around the macular, which helps to seal off the blood vessels. If successful, this can improve and prevent vision loss, although several treatments may be required.Medication injection therapy is also used to treat macular oedema. A needle is inserted directly into the eye after anaesthetic has numbed the area. The appropriate drugs are then delivered near the retina.

Diabetics can also help treat macular oedema by controlling blood sugar levels and blood pressure.Lastly, eye drops may be prescribed for macular oedema. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or steroid-based products will be used depending on the severity of the condition.