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Diabetes and eye disease: Diabetic Macular Edema (DME)

According to the American Diabetes Association, as of 2012, 29.1 million Americans had been diagnosed with diabetes. In addition, approximately 86 million Americans over the age of 20 had been diagnosed with prediabetes. Left untreated/uncontrolled, diabetes can cause significant health risks. These risks often include nonreversible complications (non-traumatic amputations, end stage kidney disease, heart attacks, and stroke). In addition, uncontrolled diabetes (chronically elevated blood sugar levels) can cause damage to the blood vessels in the eye, leading to diabetic eye disease. The term diabetic eye disease encompasses many eye diseases, including cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema.

According to the National Eye Institute, diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes. The chronically elevated blood sugars affect the tiny blood vessels of the eye, causing them to leak fluids into the visual field, thus causing distorted vision. Left untreated, this can lead to blindness.

Diabetic Macular Edema (DME) is a consequence of diabetic retinopathy. In this disease process, there is swelling and fluid buildup in the macula area of the eye. This area of the eye is responsible for sharp, central vision (such vision related issues such as reading, and driving would be affected with DME). Symptoms of DME may include the following:

  • Images that are right in front of you may appear wavy or blurred

  • Colors may appear “washed out”

Diabetic related eye disorders may go unnoticed in their early development. For that reason, persons with diabetes (PWD) are highly encouraged to have an annual dilated eye exam by an ophthalmologist. This eye examination is comprehensive and should include visual acuity testing, eye pressure examination (tonometry), pupil dilation examination and more. By doing this comprehensive examination, your eye doctor looks for leaking blood vessels, nerve tissue damage and swelling. Early detection and treatment offers the best change at preserving vision.

Numerous treatments are available to reduce swelling of blood vessels and slow down fluid leakage (laser treatments), as well as injections to reverse abnormal blood vessel growth. For more information on diabetes and diabetic eye disease, check out In addition to eye disease information, check out the resources tab for information on finding an eye doctor. Don’t forget your FREE diabetes-related items, too.

For more information on diabetic related eye disease, check out these websites:

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