What is Diabetic Macular Edema?

If you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, you may experience damaged blood vessels in the retina. Inflammation from diabetic retinopathy leads to edema (swelling) of the macula. This condition is called DME, and it can affect your vision and impact your ability to participate in activities that are important to you. DME is a serious eye condition that can lead to vision loss and blindness.

Who Gets DME?

If you have diabetes —either Type 1 or Type 2— you are at risk of developing a diabetic eye disease called diabetic retinopathy (DR), the condition that can lead to diabetic macular edema (DME). If left untreated, DME is a common cause of vision loss. Keeping your glycemic levels as close to normal as possible may delay or even prevent the development of DR and DME.

Potential risk factors

  • Duration of diabetes is 10 years or longer
  • Poor control of blood sugar levels in the past (even if currently under control)

  • Hyperglycemia, or Hgb A1C—chronic high levels of blood sugars increase the risk of developing DR and DME; keeping your glycemic levels as close to normal as possible may delay or even prevent the development of DR and DME

  • Dyslipidemia—abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels may increase your risk of DME

  • Hypertension—high blood pressure and the damage it does to your organs are risk factors for DME

  • Nephropathy (kidney disease) and cardiovascular disease or heart disease also increase your risk

  • Tobacco Use —quitting smoking can reduce risk of DR*

  • Pregnancy—in women with diabetes; comprehensive dilated eye exams should be considered during any pregnancy

Anyone who has diabetes is at risk of developing some form of eye disease, including DR and DME, in his or her lifetime. That’s why it’s important to see an eye doctor for regular eye exams at least once a year.