Mathias Larson

He who has health has hope; and he who has hope, has everything. – Thomas Carlyle

Diseases / Fitness and Exercise · 23.03.2023.

Diabetic Macular Edema and the Benefits of Exercise for Patients

Diabetic macular edema (DME) is a common complication of diabetes that can lead to vision loss if left untreated. This condition occurs when fluid accumulates in the macula, the central part of the retina responsible for sharp, central vision.

High blood sugar levels, common in people with diabetes, can damage the blood vessels in the retina, causing them to leak fluid and swell. This article discusses the benefits of exercise in managing DME and offers guidance on how to incorporate physical activity into a patient’s daily routine.

The Importance of Exercise for Diabetic Macular Edema Patients

Reducing the Risk of Developing DME

Regular exercise can help reduce the risk of developing DME by promoting better blood sugar control. Exercise increases insulin sensitivity, which allows the body to use insulin more effectively, thereby lowering blood sugar levels. Additionally, exercise can improve blood circulation, which is essential for maintaining healthy blood vessels and preventing damage to the retina.

Slowing the Progression of DME

Exercise can also slow the progression of DME in those already diagnosed with the condition. Consistent physical activity can help maintain blood sugar control and prevent further damage to the blood vessels in the retina. Moreover, exercise strengthens the cardiovascular system, ensuring that the retina receives an adequate blood supply.

Guidelines for Exercise in DME Patients

Consulting a Healthcare Professional

Before beginning any exercise program, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional to assess the individual’s overall health and determine the appropriate level of exercise. People with diabetes should work closely with their healthcare team to develop a personalized exercise plan that considers their specific needs and limitations.

Types of Exercise

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise, also known as cardio, is an essential component of a well-rounded exercise routine for people with DME. This type of exercise increases heart rate and improves cardiovascular health, which can help maintain healthy blood vessels in the retina. Examples of aerobic exercises include walking, swimming, cycling, and dancing.

Strength Training

Strength training, or resistance exercise, helps build and maintain muscle mass, which can contribute to better blood sugar control. This type of exercise involves working the muscles against resistance, such as body weight, resistance bands, or free weights. Examples of strength training exercises include squats, lunges, push-ups, and bicep curls.

Flexibility and Balance Exercises

Flexibility and balance exercises are important for maintaining mobility and preventing falls, which can be particularly important for people with diabetes who may experience nerve damage or neuropathy. Examples of flexibility exercises include stretches for the hamstrings, calves, and shoulders. Balance exercises may involve standing on one leg, walking heel-to-toe, or practicing tai chi.

Frequency and Intensity of Exercise

The American Diabetes Association recommends that people with diabetes engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week. This can be broken down into shorter sessions, such as 30 minutes per day, five days a week. Strength training should be performed at least two days per week, with exercises targeting all major muscle groups.

It’s crucial to start slow and gradually increase the intensity and duration of exercise. This helps prevent injuries and allows the body to adjust to the increased physical demands.

Monitoring Blood Sugar Levels

It’s essential for people with diabetes to monitor their blood sugar levels before, during, and after exercise. Exercise can cause blood sugar levels to drop, so it’s important to be prepared with a quick-acting source of carbohydrates, such as glucose gel or fruit juice, in case of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). It’s also essential to stay hydrated, as dehydration can affect blood sugar levels.


Exercise is an integral part of managing diabetes and reducing the risk of complications such as diabetic macular edema. By engaging in regular physical activity, individuals with diabetes can improve blood sugar control, promote healthy blood vessels, and slow the progression of DME. It’s essential to consult a healthcare professional before starting any exercise program and to work closely with them to develop a personalized plan that meets the individual’s specific needs.

Incorporating a combination of aerobic exercise, strength training, and flexibility and balance exercises can provide the most benefits for people with diabetes. By following the recommended guidelines for frequency and intensity of exercise, individuals can safely and effectively improve their overall health and minimize the risk of DME-related vision loss.

Monitoring blood sugar levels before, during, and after exercise is crucial for maintaining optimal blood sugar control and preventing hypoglycemia. Staying hydrated and being prepared with a quick-acting source of carbohydrates can ensure a safe and enjoyable exercise experience for people with diabetes.

In conclusion, a well-rounded exercise routine is an essential tool for managing diabetes and mitigating the risk of diabetic macular edema. By working closely with a healthcare team and incorporating regular physical activity into their daily routine, individuals with diabetes can improve their overall health, reduce the risk of complications, and enjoy a better quality of life.