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Diabetic macular edema (DME) · DME develops from an eye condition called diabetic retinopathy (DR) and is a leading cause of vision loss in people with diabetes. DME is caused by swelling or thickening of the retina at the back of the eye and the leaking of blood and fluid onto the macula, a small area in the retina responsible for sharp vision.

Diabetic retinopathy (DR) · DR is a progressive disease that affects blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye, and is associated with many of the same risk factors as diabetes and DME, including high blood glucose and high blood pressure. In diabetes, high levels of blood glucose can weaken, damage, or block the blood vessels in the retina, preventing the retina from receiving enough blood or oxygen, and leading to DR.

Retina · The light-sensitive part of the eye located at the back of the eye.

Macula · The central part of the retina responsible for sharp vision.

Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) · A protein produced by the body that is responsible for increasing blood vessel permeability and new blood vessel growth.

Laser treatment · Laser therapy works by using a tiny laser to seal leaking blood vessels and encourage reabsorption of leaked fluids. It stabilizes vision and can prevent vision loss caused by DME, but rarely improves vision.

Steroid treatment · Steroids work by reducing both inflammation and levels of VEGF. They are administered either via an injection into the eye, or a small eye implant that releases the therapy.

Ophthalmologist · An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who commonly acts as both physician and surgeon. He or she examines, diagnoses and treats diseases and injuries in and around the eye. People with DME are managed by ophthalmologists who specialize in eye conditions that affect the back of the eye.

Anti-VEGF treatment · Anti-VEGF therapy works by blocking a protein in your body known as Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) that is responsible for increasing blood vessel permeability and new blood vessel growth. It is administered via an injection into the eye, and is often the preferred treatment given clinical trials have demonstrated it is more effective in reducing DME and improving vision than laser or steroid therapies.

Optometrist · Optometrists are trained to examine the eyes to detect defects in vision, signs of injury, ocular diseases or abnormality and problems with general health, such as diabetes. They make a health assessment, offer clinical advice, prescribe spectacles or contact lenses and refer patients for further treatment, where necessary.

Endocrinologist / diabetologist · An expert or specialist in the study or treatment of diabetes mellitus.

Primary care physician (PCP) · A health care professional who practices general medicine and are the first stop for medical care. Most PCPs are doctors, and are sometimes supported by nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

Type 1 Diabetes · Type 1 diabetes is a problem with insulin production. It accounts for about 10 per cent of all adults with diabetes and is treated by daily insulin doses – taken either by injections or via an insulin pump. Type 1 diabetes can develop at any age but usually develops in childhood. If untreated, it can lead to a number of serious health problems, including DR and DME.

Type 2 Diabetes · Type 2 diabetes is a problem with the body's sensitivity to insulin. It develops when your body can't produce enough insulin, or when the insulin that is produced doesn't work properly. It accounts for about 90% of the diabetes cases. If untreated, it can lead to a number of serious health problems, including DR and DME.

Visual acuity test · A visual acuity test is used to determine the smallest letters you can read on a standardized chart or a card held 20 feet (6 meters) away. Ophthalmologists routinely use a number of different standardized charts in their practices.

Eye dilation test · Dilation involves putting drops into your eyes that dilate the pupils. This means they get larger, allowing more light to get in and the doctor or nurse to see the back of the eye more clearly. It will make your vision blurry for a while, but this won’t last long.

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) scan · Optical Coherence Tomography, or OCT, might sound complicated, but it’s really just a light that scans your retina. The scan produces a visualization of the different layers of the retina, producing a sort of map that lets the doctor or nurse measure its thickness. This is important for understanding exactly what’s happening around your macula.

Fluorescein angiogram (FA) · Fluorescein angiography is a procedure where a dye is injected into your bloodstream. It highlights the blood vessels at the back of your eye, which helps your doctor or nurse see where new vessels are growing and how leaky they are.

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An easy-to-understand guide to the medical terms