Spotting symptoms of diabetic macular edema

If you notice these problems with your vision, contact your health care provider right away.

Diabetic macular edema is a serious eye problem that can happen in people who have diabetes. In this eye disorder, blood vessels in the retina — an area at the back of the eye — leak fluid. That fluid can cause swelling in part of the retina called the macula. The macula is a region near the center of the retina that allows you to see objects in sharp detail.

Some people with diabetic macular edema don't have any symptoms, or symptoms may be mild. But it's important to know what to watch for because, if it isn't treated, diabetic macular edema can lead to vision problems. The most common symptoms are:

  • Blurred or distorted vision.
  • Blank spots in vision.
  • Problems with reading.
  • A change in the way colors look.

All symptoms need attention

By the time you notice symptoms, diabetic macular edema could already be causing permanent damage to the macula. The macula allows you to see details, recognize faces and read words on a page, so any injury to it could lead to significant vision problems.

Contact your health care provider right away if you notice any vision symptoms. Your provider can check for diabetic macular edema and, if it has started to develop, assess the seriousness of the condition.

Don't wait for symptoms

Don't wait until you have symptoms to take steps to protect your eyesight:

  • Get an eye exam at least once a year. During this exam, your provider can dilate your eyes or use retinal photography to get a close look at your retina. This can help diagnose diabetic macular edema in its earliest stages.
  • Take care of your health. Keeping your blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure under control can help lower the chances of developing diabetic macular edema. Ask your health care provider about how best to manage these aspects of your health based on your medical history.

If you have diabetes, it's important to take an active role in preventing eye problems. With early detection and treatment, diabetic macular edema may be controlled. And with prompt treatment, vision loss often can be prevented and sometimes even reversed.

Feb. 28, 2023 See more In-depth