Cystoid Macular Edema

Cystoid macular edema is a vision disorder that affects the central portion of the retina, called the macula. “Edema” occurs when the tissues become swollen with fluid, and if it is located in the macula, the fluid pools into cyst-like areas. Chronic edema can cause permanent damage. However, most people are able to recover clear, sharp vision with prompt professional intervention and appropriate treatment.

The medical professionals best qualified to evaluate, diagnose and treat cystoid macular edema are ophthalmologists with extensive training in diseases and surgery of the retina and vitreous. Known as retina specialists, they have unique expertise in the advanced technology and equipment used to treat problems like macular edema.

What Causes Cystoid Macular Edema?

Most cases of cystoid macular edema develop after cataract surgery; between 1 and 3 percent of cataract surgery patients develop cystoid macular edema. It can also appear after surgery to repair a detached retina, or as the result of another health issue such as uveitis, age-related macular degeneration or diabetes. Some cases are caused by inflammation in the eye or an eye injury.


Cystoid macular edema can cause a decrease in central vision (peripheral vision is unaffected), or it may cause blurriness or waves in the middle of the field of view. It can also distort the appearance of colors or reduce contrast sensitivity. If one eye develops cystoid macular edema, there is a risk of up to 50 percent that the second eye is affected.

Some cases of cystoid macular edema are asymptomatic, meaning they do not cause any symptoms.

Cystoid macular edema can be diagnosed a few different ways. The ophthalmologist can perform a dilated retinal exam and use a special lens to look at the macula and identify any cysts. A test called a fluorescein angiography can be used to look for leakage from blood vessels and associated swelling. Or, a test called optical coherence tomography may be performed; this involves a special light that captures high-resolution cross-sectional images of the macular and retinal tissues.

Treatment Options for Cystoid Macular Edema

Treatment options vary, and are chosen based on the origin of the problem. After evaluating the individual case and ascertaining the root of the swelling, the retina specialist makes their recommendations. Currently cystoid macular edema can be treated with topical drugs, injections or surgery.

Inflammation in the retinal tissues can be treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. These drugs may be administered through eye drops. If they do not work, steroid drops may be recommended. Or, more powerful steroids can be injected around or inside the eye to stop the swelling and irritation. Diuretics may also be prescribed to help lessen swelling, in some cases.

Injections of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) agents may be used in cases of cystoid macular edema. VEGF is a chemical that triggers the growth of blood vessels. Anti-VEGF drugs are designed to limit the growth of these abnormal blood vessels and slow their leakage. Injection therapy is typically performed in an office setting with local anesthetic.

If the vitreous fluid is pulling on the macula and causing swelling, surgery to clear some or all of the vitreous gel can help. This procedure, known as vitrectomy, replaces the natural vitreous with a saline liquid to fill the inner chambers of the eye.

Contact Our Retina Specialists

If you have noticed your central vision blurring or faltering, you may have a problem with your retina or macula. It is strongly recommended that you be evaluated by our team of retina specialists. Contact us today to request an appointment.