Purpose: We report cross-sectional images of diabetic macular edema and correlation between tomographic features and visual acuity with best correction by means of optical coherence tomography.
Method: In a prospective study, optical coherence tomography was performed in 59 eyes of 42 patients with diabetic macular edema and in 10 eyes of 10 normal control subjects.
Results: Optical coherence tomography showed three patterns of structural changes in diabetic macular edema: sponge-like retinal swelling (52 [88%] of 59 eyes), cystoid macular edema (28 [47%] of 59 eyes), and serous retinal detachment (9 [15%] of 59 eyes). Some eyes had more than one pathologic change. Retinal swelling was more pronounced in the outer rather than the inner retinal layers. Cystoid macular edema was located mainly in the outer retinal layers. In eyes with long-standing cystoid macular edema, cystoid spaces had fused, resulting in a large cystoid cavity involving almost the entire retinal layer. Hard exudates were seen as highly reflective areas located in the outer retinal layers. The retinal thickness at the central fovea and the visual acuity with best correction showed an intermediate negative correlation in eyes without cystoid macular edema (correlation coefficient: -0.61, P < .01).
Conclusions: Diabetic macular edema involved three structural changes, including sponge-like retinal swelling (88%), cystoid macular edema (47%), and serous retinal detachment (15%). Visual acuity with best correction moderately correlated with retinal thickness regardless of the different tomographic features.