Spectral domain optical coherence tomography classification of diabetic macular edema: a new proposal to clinical practice



To classify the types of diabetic macular edema (DME) and evaluate its morphological features on spectral domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) and determine correlations between visual acuity and OCT findings.


We assessed 406 eyes of 309 patients with a diagnosis of DME retrospectively. Three types based on SD-OCT were identified: diffuse macular edema, cystoid macular edema, and cystoid degeneration. Morphological features such as serous macular detachment (SMD), vitreomacular interface abnormalities (VMAI), hard exudates, photoreceptor status, and correlations between visual acuity and those morphological features were also evaluated by SD-OCT.


The most common type of DME was cystoid edema (68.5%). No statistically significant difference was found between groups in sex (P = 0.40), type of diabetes (P = 0.50), or diabetic retinopathy (P = 0.78). However, the duration of symptoms and BCVA was significantly lower in the group with cystoid degeneration compared with the group with cystoid edema (P < 0.001) and the group with diffuse macular edema (P < 0.001). In the group with cystoid degeneration compared with the groups with cystoid and diffuse edema, the central fovea and central subfield were significantly thicker (both (P < 0.001), the subfoveal choroid was significantly thinner (P = 0.049), rate of serous macular detachment was significantly lower (P < 0.001), and the rate of outer retinal damage was significantly higher (P < 0.001).


Cystoid macular degeneration, which is consistent with poor functional and morphological outcomes, should be differentiated from cystoid macular edema. Serous macular detachment, which is mostly seen in eyes with early stages of DME, should be evaluated as an accompanying morphological finding rather than a type of DME.

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Correspondence to Murat Karacorlu.

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Arf, S., Sayman Muslubas, I., Hocaoglu, M. et al. Spectral domain optical coherence tomography classification of diabetic macular edema: a new proposal to clinical practice. Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol 258, 1165–1172 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00417-020-04640-9

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  • Diabetic macular edema
  • Serous macular detachment
  • Cystoid macular edema
  • Diffuse macular edema
  • Cystoid macular degeneration
  • SD-OCT