Currently, nothing can cure diabetic macular edema. However, treatment options can help slow the progression of the condition and improve vision.

Diabetic macular edema (DME) is an accumulation of excessive liquid in the hollow spaces of the retina in the macular area. It can lead to decreases in visual acuity, changes in how a person sees colors, trouble reading, and other symptoms.

It is a complication that affects about 5.5% of people living with diabetes. Several factors can increase a person’s risk of developing DME, including:

  • uncontrolled diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol levels

Once a person develops DME, there is no cure. However, treatments are available that can help slow progression and reduce symptoms.

Read on to learn more about what a doctor can do for DME and how to prevent the condition from worsening.

A pair of eyeglasses-2.Share on Pinterest
MirageC/Getty Images

At present, a doctor cannot cure DME. Instead, treatment focuses on helping slow the progression and correct changes in vision associated with the condition.

Researchers are investigating possible ways to prevent its development. According to the National Eye Institute, studies are exploring whether certain micro-RNAs — molecules that help regulate certain genes — may help stop or shut off the genes responsible for the development of macular edema. Though potentially promising, more research is necessary.

Current treatments seek to prevent further progression of the condition and worsening of symptoms.

Several treatment options are available to help treat DME.

The first-line treatment for DME is a type of medication known as anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) agents. A doctor administers these medications through an injection into the clear vitreous gel inside the eye.

These drugs inhibit a protein that the body uses to grow new blood vessels. By blocking the action of this protein, anti-VEGF agents slow the development of new, abnormal blood vessels that are responsible for diabetes-related eye conditions, such as DME.

Other treatment options include laser therapy and corticosteroids.

Laser therapy involves the use of tiny lasers to target areas of damage in the retina. By doing so, this process seals the leaking blood vessels and prevents the growth of abnormal blood vessels. Corticosteroids can also help reduce swelling of the retina. A doctor may consider them if anti-VEGF treatments are ineffective.

Additionally, health experts advise that people manage their diabetes to help prevent health complications. They may refer to this as managing the ABCs of diabetes, which involves:

DME can cause several vision-related symptoms. They include:

  • trouble driving
  • blurry or wavy vision
  • dulled colors
  • blind spots
  • trouble reading
  • difficulty recognizing faces

Some people may only experience symptoms in one eye. If this occurs, they may not notice symptoms until DME becomes more advanced. Left untreated, it can lead to complete vision loss. Treatment cannot correct damage already done, so early treatment is important to help maintain vision.

A person living with diabetes can take several steps to help take care of their eyes.

To help prevent eye complications, it is essential that a person attends an annual comprehensive eye exam. This test can help catch early signs of eye problems and allow a doctor to treat them accordingly.

Managing diabetes is often the first step in preventing complications, such as issues with the eyes. This can include keeping blood sugar levels within the target range and getting regular physical activity.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that people take steps to learn more about how diabetes can affect their eyes. This can help them make more informed decisions about their personal care. Other steps to help prevent eye diseases include:

  • avoiding or stopping smoking
  • maintaining healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels
  • monitoring blood sugar levels closely
  • getting once-a-year comprehensive eye examinations

Diabetes can negatively affect a person’s vision in many ways. Issues with the eyes often develop slowly over time. Uncontrolled high blood sugar levels can lead to diabetic eye disease, which refers to visual complications relating to diabetes.

Some common complications associated with diabetes include:

Any of these conditions can lead to vision loss, but treatment can help slow the progression or help protect a person’s eyesight.

DME describes swelling in the retina that occurs as a common complication associated with diabetes. It can lead to visual symptoms and, without treatment, may result in complete vision loss.

DME currently has no cure. However, proper treatment and diabetes management can help slow its progression, limit vision damage, and, in some cases, reverse the damage. Treatments include medications and laser therapy. A person can take steps to help prevent DME. These include managing their diabetes and attending regular eye exams.