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What is DME?

Diabetic Macular Edema (DME) is a leading cause of blindness in adults of working age and is caused by changes to the blood vessels in the back of the eye brought on by diabetes.

What is DME?

What causes DME?

A healthy eye

In a healthy eye, the cornea and lens focus light onto the retina, the light-sensitive part of the eye. The retina sends signals to the brain, which interprets them as images. The macula is the area of the retina that is particularly sensitive to light and is what you use for central vision, allowing you to see sharp, fine detail. This is the part of the eye that DME affects.


A healthy eye

Diabetes can weaken blood vessels

The macula is surrounded by tiny blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrition to, and waste products from, it. High blood sugar and high blood pressure, common to patients with diabetes, can weaken these vessels, causing them to become leaky.


Weakened blood vessels

Leaky blood vessels can cause the macula to swell

Weakened blood vessels can leak fluid and proteins that accumulate in the area around the macula, causing the macula to thicken, swell and become damaged. This is known as DME.


Leaky blood vessels

A swollen macula can affect central vision

As the macula thickens and swells, it becomes damaged. Swelling of the macula reduces clarity of vision, blurs sight and ultimately can cause vision loss.


Swollen macula

Next steps

There are a number of ways you can improve your understanding of DME and take action to help reduce its impact on your life. As always, you should ask your doctor for further details.

Key patient resources

Understand where you are and what you need to do

Use our checklists to prepare for appointments

See what most DME patients want to know about

An easy-to-understand guide to the medical terms