Living with diabetic macular oedema (DMO)

Diabetic macular oedema (DMO) is a complication of diabetes that can affect people with either type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes. Around one in 14 people with diabetes develop DMO (Source: Ophthalmology).

Early diagnosis and treatment can help to limit central vision loss from this diabetic eye disease. If you're living with diabetic macular oedema, you can help slow its progression by managing your diabetes with support from your diabetes care team.

If you experience changes to your central vision, there is lots of support to help you adapt and enjoy a good quality of life with the vision you do have.

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Managing your diabetic macular oedema

If you're diagnosed with diabetic macular oedema early, you can lower the risk factors for it getting worse by managing your diabetes with advice from your GP and diabetes care team.

Healthy lifestyle

Following a healthy lifestyle and managing your diabetes can help slow the development of diabetic eye disease and limit damage to your vision. For example:

  • Try to have a healthy diet. There's lots of advice about eating well with diabetes, and your GP or diabetes nurse should offer support too.
  • Keep to a healthy weight.
  • Be active and do regular exercise. Finding an activity you enjoy makes this easier, and it doesn't have to cost money.
  • Get support to stop smoking. There's some research showing that smoking can worsen diabetic retinopathy (Source: Patient).
  • Keep up to date with your diabetes care, such as regular blood glucose tests to know your blood sugar levels. Your regular diabetes clinic appointments can help you monitor your cholesterol and blood pressure.

Always seek advice from your healthcare practitioner if you're having treatment, as poorly controlled diabetes can make treatments less effective.

Monitor your diabetes

High blood sugar levels, cholesterol, and blood pressure can make diabetic macular oedema worse and limit the effectiveness of treatments too.

Good diabetes management can help you keep these under control. Keep up with regular blood glucose tests to know your blood sugar levels. Your GP or diabetes nurse can help you with monitoring your cholesterol and blood pressure. You may be able to check these at home as well.

Everyone aged 12 and older with diabetes should have a eye examination screening at least once a year. In between appointments, it's also good to be aware of changes to your eyes. Get prompt medical advice for any eye problems.

Diabetic macular oedema and driving

So long as your diabetic macular is in the early stages, and your vision hasn't been affected, you will probably be able to carry on driving. If you're having treatment, ask your ophthalmologist for advice about when you can drive. Your vision can be blurry straight after treatment, so you'll need some time to recover.

If you do experience vision changes, ask your ophthalmologist about driving. They'll be able to explain whether your sight meets the minimum visual standard for driving.

If your diabetic macular oedema progresses to cause vision problems, you might need to stop driving. The condition often progresses over many years, giving you time to think ahead and plan how you'll manage.

Find out your local public transport choices, talk to friends and family, and get support from our Guide Line for getting about with a vision impairment.

Can you work with diabetic macular oedema?

Diabetic macular oedema can develop slowly over many years and doesn't always cause vision impairment. However, if you're living with the condition, you're likely to need regular treatment. You may want to speak to your employer so they can make reasonable adjustments for you, such as giving you time to attend your eye exam screening appointments and treatments.

If the condition does lead to some vision problems, some adjustments could help make the most of your vision to carry on working. Employers must make reasonable adjustments that help you. You might need to explain the kind of things that may help, for example:

  • Changes to lighting and desk set up to control glare and contrast.
  • Low vision aids such as magnifiers to help with reading.
  • Larger print for materials or products you use, such as keyboards and phones.

We have ideas for how to make the most of your vision that you can try.

The Access to Work scheme provides grants to employers for equipment or services you need to enable you to work. This could be for transport to and from work, a support worker, specialist equipment and more.

Support for living with diabetic macular oedema

It's normal to worry if you're faced with changes to your sight when living with diabetic macular oedema.

There's plenty of practical advice for managing with a vision impairment, and we share some tips below. But often, you also need support with the emotional side of coping with sight loss. Talking to friends and family can help, but sometimes you need to speak to someone who understands what you're going through.

Support organisations

Making the most of your vision

There are many practical ways to make the most of your vision at home, such as:

Find out other skills and strategies for when your central vision is affected.

Your eye specialist or clinic can also refer you for a low vision assessment (LVA). A LVA will explore the useful vision you have and the visual aids that will help make the most of it. Local social services can also support you in keeping safe at home and getting around safely if sight loss affects your mobility.

Registering as visually impaired

If your sight loss is significant, you may want to consider registering as vision impaired. Being registered as either sight impaired (previously called partially sighted) or severely sight impaired (formerly known as blind) can help you get financial support, including:

Frequently asked questions

Get in touch

You can contact us to find out about services and support tailored to your individual needs.

Medically reviewed by: The Royal College of Ophthalmologists on 28/07/2022

Edited by: Nick Astbury FRCS FRCOphth FRCP
Clinical Associate Professor

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists champions excellence in the practice of ophthalmology and is the only professional membership body for medically qualified ophthalmologists. The RCOphth is unable to offer direct advice to patients. If you’re concerned about the health of your eyes, you should seek medical advice from your GP, optometrist or ophthalmologist.

For more support...

Information to help you continue developing your independence and ways to enhance your day-to-day life skills.

Find out how technology can help you live independently with sight loss, from specialist assistive technology to apps and Apple accessibility features.

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