Skip to main content

Diabetes - What is macular ischemia or edema?

Many people with diabetes have mild Non-Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (NPDR), which usually does not affect their vision.  However, if their vision is affected, it is the result of macular edema and macular ischemia.

  • Macular edema. Swelling or thickening of the macula. It is caused by fluid leaking from the retina’s blood vessels.  The macula, which is responsible for our clear, central vision, does not function properly when it is swollen.  Macular edema is the most common cause of vision loss in diabetes. Vision loss may be mild to severe, but in many cases, your peripheral (side) vision remains. Laser treatment may help to stabilize vision.
  • Macular ischemia. Occurs when small blood vessels (capillaries) close.  Your vision blurs because the macula no longer receives enough blood to work properly.  Currently, there is no effective treatment for macular ischemia.

A medical eye examination is the only way to discover any changes inside your eye.  If Doctor Murphy finds diabetic retinopathy, she may order a special test called Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) to find out if you need treatment.

If you have diabetes, early detection of diabetic retinopathy is the best protection against loss of vision.  You can significantly lower your risk of vision loss by maintaining strict control of your blood sugar. People with diabetes should schedule medical eye examinations at least once a year.  If diabetic retinopathy is detected, more frequest medical eye examinations may be necessary.  Pregnant women with diabetes should schedule an appointment in their first trimester, because retinopathy can progress quickly during pregnancy.


Alma Murphy MD PC
Eye Physician & Surgeon
490 N Alvernon Way
Tucson, AZ 85711

Office Hours

8:00 am – 5:00 pm (Mon - Thurs)
8:30 am – 1:30 pm (Friday)


© 2022 by Alma Murphy MD. All Rights Reserved.