Diabetic Macular Edema (DME)

Last update: 09/03/2020

Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a complication of diabetes that may be unnoticeable in its early stages, but which can lead to vision impairment and blindness. It affects an estimated one in three people living with diabetes, and is a primary cause of vision loss and blindness in people aged between 20 and 65. 

Diabetic Macular Edema (DME) is a potential complication of DR. It is caused by disruption of the blood-retinal barrier due to long-term hyperglycaemia (high blood glucose), leading to retinal thickening around the fovea. DME currently affects more than 28 million people with diabetes. 

The vast majority (79%) of respondents with diabetes to the Diabetes Retinopathy Barometer Report: Global Findings who had impaired vision due to DR or diabetic macular edema (DME), said their sight problems made everyday activities difficult, and in some cases impossible. These activities included driving, working and cooking or cleaning their home.

DME has unique assessment criteria, since it can present in eyes at all levels of DR. Therefore, early screening and detection is crucial in halting and where possible correcting DME. Since early damage is painless and goes unnoticed by the patient, regular screening is recommended for all people with diabetes.

Health practitioners have reported a need for additional training in the diagnosis, treatment and referral of diabeties-related eye disease. Due to its threat to vision, the clinical signs of DME warrant immediate referral to an ophthalmologist. Therefore, the employment of trained health care professionals to carry out basic screening and make appropriate referrals would be the most efficient use of resources.

In support of those on the frontline of diabetes eye health, the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) has led a team of experts in the development of the Clinical Practice Recommendations for Managing Diabetic Macular Edema. This is intended to facilitate the work of general practitioners, hospital physicians, and other clinicians working in diabetes-related eye disease management.

The clinical recommendations grew out of a collaborative, evidence-based process and reflect the latest advances in DME management.

  • IDF Clinical Practice Recommendations for Managing Diabetic Macular Edema (DME)

    [Last update March 2020]

  • DME factsheet

    [Last update June 2020]

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