How is Macular Edema Diagnosed?

Macular edema is a swelling or thickening of the eye’s macula, the part of the eye responsible for detailed, central vision.

The macula is a very small area at the center of the retina—a thin layer of light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye. Light rays are focused onto the retina, where they are transmitted to the brain and interpreted as the images you see.

Macular edema develops when fluid or protein deposits collect on or under the macula of the eye and causes it to thicken and swell (edema). The macula does not function properly when it is swollen. The swelling may distort a person’s central vision, because the macula holds tightly packed cones that provide sharp, clear, central vision to enable a person to see detail, form and color that is directly in the center of the field of view. 

Macular edema is usually diagnosed in one of three ways: dilated retinal exam, fluorescein angiography, or optical coherence tomography (OCT).

Dilated Retinal Exam: our doctors may be able to diagnose the macular edema using a special lens to see the macula and identify any cysts.

Fluorescein Angiography: Another way macular edema is diagnosed is through fluorescein angiography. This test involves injecting a sodium-based dye into an arm vein. The dye travels to the retina and is visible in the blood vessels within 10-20 seconds on average. The injected dye illuminates the blood vessels and can show if any of the blood vessels are actively leaking within the macula.

Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT): OCT is one of the best ways to diagnose macular edema. OCT is a non-invasive test that scans the retina and provides very detailed images of its thickness. This helps your doctor find leakage and measure swelling of the macula.

Once macular edema is diagnosed, a treatment plan can be recommended by our doctors. To learn more about macular edema or to schedule a retinal exam, contact Associated Retina Consultants at 602-242-4928 or website

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