Aggravation of laser-treated diabetic cystoid macular edema after prolonged flight: a case report

Aviat Space Environ Med. 1995 May;66(5):440-2.


A 62-year-old diabetic woman with pan-retinal laser treatment for non-proliferative, bilateral diabetic retinopathy and cystoid macular edema (CME) demonstrated an acute exacerbation of CME after 42 h of prolonged flight in commercial pressurized aircraft. When travelling by air, vital sensory functions of the human body are affected by a variety of disturbing factors. The most important of these--altitude-related oxygen deficiency--is compensated for by homeostatic mechanisms in healthy subjects. However, even with normal oxygen tension, the diabetic retina is hypoxic because the vascular response to oxygen variation is altered. Increased tissue demand for oxygen, owing to decreased ability of the circulating blood to release oxygen, cannot be met. In our patient, the aggravated CME appeared to result from hemodynamic changes induced by flight. In particular, the prolonged environmental oxygen deficiency may have exacerbated the retinal hypoxia leading to acute, vascular decompensation and dramatic plasma leakage with visual loss.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Aerospace Medicine*
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / surgery*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / etiology
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology
  • Laser Therapy*
  • Macular Edema / surgery*
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Travel
  • Vision Disorders / etiology