Diabetic Macular Edema and Supplemental Oxygen

supplemental oxygen nasal cannulaThe role of supplemental oxygen in diabetic macular edema was the subject of a pilot study in 2004. Diabetic macular edema or DME is a side-effect of diabetes.  DME occurs when  retinal blood vessels leak into the macula apparently trying to provide more oxygen to the retina.  This leakage causes swelling, which, in turn, causes part of central vision to become blurred.

Oxygen Therapy

The study gave 5 DME patients supplemental oxygen using a standard oxygen supplying device called a nasal cannula (see photo).  The patients were tested before, during and after three months of oxygen therapy. The results showed a significant reduction in excess foveal thickness and macular volume for all subjects. This means that the retina area was getting enough oxygen so that excess blood vessels shrank for the patients.  Visual acuity was improved in a few of the eyes, but most did not change, even though swelling was reduced. After stopping the oxygen for three months, half of the eyes got worse with increased macular thickness.

Lack of Retinal Oxygen: A Role in Diabetic Macular Edema

Although the study was small, the researchers concluded that oxygen therapy could help reduce the effects of diabetic macular edema. Additionally, they suggested that lack of sufficient oxygen in the retina may play a role in the development and progression of DME.

Editor’s Note: Aerobic exercise naturally floods the body’s tissues with life-saving oxygen. Prolong good health by getting sufficient daily exercise throughout life. Additional research has shown how exercise positively impacts retinal health. Regular exercise also helps manage weight, a crucial factor in preventing Type II diabetes.

Study: Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2004 Feb;45(2):617-24. “Supplemental oxygen improves diabetic macular edema: a pilot study.” Nguyen QD et. al.