Cystoid macular edema is when fluid builds up in part of the eye. Vision can become blurry and unfocused, and colors may appear faded. Causes include cataract surgery and diabetes. Treatment can reverse it.

Any significant changes to vision can be concerning, but most people with cystoid macular edema regain full or partial vision if they receive treatment. The cause of the condition will determine the treatment options.

Keep reading to learn about the symptoms, causes, and treatment of cystoid macular edema.

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Cystoid macular edema is when fluid builds up in a part of the eye called the macula, distorting the vision.

The eye contains a retina, which is a layer of tissue in the back of the eye that detects light and sends images to the brain. The center of the retina is called the macula, and it is crucial to the ability to see.

The macula is responsible for sharp images and people’s ability to distinguish one item from another.

In some instances, the macula can fill with fluid, which will create cyst-like patterns. This is called cystoid macular edema.

Although this condition is not life threatening, a decrease in vision can affect a person’s quality of life.

According to the National Eye Institute, the main symptom of cystoid macular edema is blurred or distorted vision, where images appear wavy or blurry. People with this condition may also see colors as faded or less bright.

This condition does not always affect both eyes, meaning that symptoms may sometimes only be present in one eye.

Similar symptoms can occur as a result of other conditions, so anyone experiencing them should speak with a primary care physician or eye doctor to obtain a diagnosis.

Cystoid macular edema has various possible causes, including those below.

Cataract surgery

This procedure involves removing the eye lens and replacing it with an artificial lens. Ophthalmologists perform this surgery to treat cataracts in the eye. Cataracts impair vision by causing things to look blurry and out of focus while also increasing the glare from lights.

Although this procedure is relatively safe, it does come with some risks, including cystoid macular edema. Cystoid macular edema is among the most common causes of reduced quality of vision following cataract surgery.


Diabetes is a condition that causes blood glucose levels to be too high.

Untreated diabetes can be dangerous. When blood sugar levels remain high, this can have negative consequences on the body, including cystoid macular edema.

Diabetes produces a combination of symptoms that can cause fluid to accumulate in the eye, leading to cystoid macular edema. These symptoms include full body inflammation, decreased blood flow to the eye, and disruption of the blood-retinal barrier.

Retinal vascular diseases

Many conditions other than diabetes can affect blood flow to the retina. They may block blood flow, causing leakage of fluid, or rupture a retinal vessel, such as a vein or capillary.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

AMD is a condition in which aging causes damage to the macula. This condition is extremely common and the leading cause of visual disability in people over 60 years of age.

AMD can cause fluid leakage in various parts of the retina. When it affects the macula, it can cause cystoid macula edema.

There is no cure for AMD, but if it presents with cystoid macular edema, treatments can help people regain their vision.

To diagnose cystoid macular edema, an ophthalmologist will dilate the pupils to look at the retina. If they suspect edema, they can perform other diagnostic tests, such as:

Optical coherence tomography

This test allows the eye doctor to take a closer look at the retina. A machine will scan the retina and provide images that help determine the retina’s thickness.

Fluorescein angiography

This procedure involves injecting a yellow dye into a vein. The dye will travel to the eye, and a camera will take photos of the retina to see whether there is any fluid leakage.

Doctors will need to determine the underlying cause of cystoid macular edema to recommend the best treatment. Depending on the cause, various treatments are available, including:

  • Injections: These medications are called anti-VEGF drugs, and they help reduce leakage from blood vessels in the eye.
  • Steroid treatment: This treatment helps reduce inflammation.
  • Eye drops: Doctors commonly prescribe these after cataract surgery.
  • Laser treatment: Laser treatment helps seal blood vessels that are leaking.
  • Vitrectomy surgery: Doctors use this procedure to restore the macula.

People who notice any impairments in their vision should make an appointment with an ophthalmologist right away. The sooner they get a diagnosis, the sooner treatment can begin, which will often prevent the symptoms from worsening.

If a person already has a diagnosis, they should talk with a doctor if the treatment is not working or their vision continues to decline.

Cystoid macular edema is not a life threatening condition, but it can affect a person’s quality of life and make it more risky to engage in certain activities that rely on good vision.

People with this condition who get treatment generally regain their original vision. However, depending on the cause of cystoid macular edema and the treatment plan, it can take several months for the condition to disappear.

It is important to follow the treatment plan exactly and to make frequent visits to the ophthalmologist to ensure that it does not return.

Cystoid macular edema is a condition that impairs a person’s vision. It is usually a symptom of another underlying condition, such as diabetes, but it can result from recent cataract surgery.

The primary symptom of this condition is reduced, blurred vision. As changes to the vision can pose significant challenges, it is important to visit an ophthalmologist quickly in order to start treatment as quickly as possible.