Date: 30 Jan 2009

Macular autofluorescence in eyes with cystoid macula edema, detected with 488 nm-excitation but not with 580 nm-excitation

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Fundus autofluorescence (AF) derives from lipofuscin in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). Because lipofuscin is a by-product of phagocytosis of photoreceptors by RPE, AF imaging is expected to describe some functional aspect of the retina. In this study we report distribution of AF in patients showing macular edema.


Three eyes with diabetic macular edema (DME) and 11 with retinal vein occlusion (RVO), associated with macular edema (ME) were examined. ME was determined by standard fundus examination, fluorescein angiography (FA) and optical coherence tomography (OCT). AF was recorded using a Heidelberg confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscope (cSLO) with 488 nm laser exciter (488 nm-AF), and a conventional Topcon fundus camera with halogen lamp exciter and 580 nm band-pass filter (580 nm-AF). Color fundus picture, FA image and these two AF images were analyzed by superimposing all images.


All subjects presented cystoid macular edema (CME) with petaloid pattern hyperfluorescence in FA. In 488 nm-AF, all eyes (100%) showed macular autofluorescence of a similar shape to that of the CME in FA. In contrast, in 580 nm-AF only one eye (7%) presented this corresponding petaloid-shaped autofluorescence. In all cases, peripheral retinal edemas did not show autofluorescence corresponding to the leakage in FA.


In eyes with CME, analogous hyperautofluorescence to the CME was always observed in 488 nm-AF, while it was rarely observed in 580 nm-AF. Moreover, this CME hyperautofluorescence was only seen in the macular area. We hypothesize that autofluorescence from CME may be considered as a “pseudo” or “relative” autofluorescence, due to macular stretching following CME that may result in lateral displacement of macular pigments (MPs) and subsequent reduction of MPs density, as MPs block 488 nm-AF more intensely than 580 nm-AF. Although this phenomenon may not directly indicate change of RPE function, it may be used as a method to assess or track CME non-invasively.