Cystoid Macular Edema (CME)

Cystoid Macular Edema (CME)

What is cystoid macular edema  ?

Cystoid macular edema (CME) is an eye condition that affects part of your retina. It is when the macula becomes swollen and tiny blisters of fluid form that look like small cysts. 

This can distort vision, making things look blurry and colors look washed out. Without treatment, macular edema can even lead to permanent vision loss.

What causes cystoid macular edema ?

You are more likely to have CME if you have had:

  • blocked blood vessels in the retina (called retinal vein occlusion)
  • uveitis (when the layer of the eyeball under the white of the eye is swollen)
  • an eye injury
  • CME in the other eye
  • diabetes, or if you take certain medicines for glaucoma or diabetes, or take niacin (vitamin B3)
  • cataract surgery or other eye surgery. Eyes that have surgery may possibly develop CME later.


Macular edema is painless and usually doesn’t have symptoms when you first get it. When you do have symptoms, they are a sign that the blood vessels in your eye may be leaking.

Common symptoms of macular edema include:

  • blurred or wavy central vision
  • colors appear washed out or different
  • having difficulty reading

If you notice any macular edema symptoms, see an ophthalmologist as soon as possible. If left untreated, macular edema can cause severe vision loss and even blindness.


During an eye exam, your ophthalmologist will dilate (widen) your pupils so they can look at your retina in the back of the eye.

Your ophthalmologist may do other tests that provide a more detailed look inside your eye, such as:

Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT). OCT is another way to look closely at the retina. A machine scans the retina and provides very detailed images of its thickness. This helps your doctor find leakage and measure swelling of the macula.

Fluorescein angiography.  A yellow dye (called fluorescein) is injected into a vein, usually in your arm. The dye travels through your blood vessels. A special camera takes photos of the retina as the dye travels throughout its blood vessels. This shows whether any blood vessels are leaking and how much leakage there is.


There are many ways to treat CME. They include:

  • eye drops to reduce swelling in the macula. These drops could be steroid or non-steroid eye drops
  • injections (shots) of medicine in the eye
  • other types of drugs to reduce swelling
  • laser surgery to repair leaking blood vessels in your retina
  • surgery called vitrectomy to remove scar tissue on your macula

Your ophthalmologist will talk about which treatment they recommend for you.

Your vision may start to improve within a few months after having your CME treated.

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