Microcystic macular oedema in optic neuropathy: case series and literature review

Line Kessel, Steffen Hamann, Marianne Wegener, Jessica Tong, Clare L Fraser


Cavitations in the inner nuclear layer associated with severe optic atrophy and loss of retinal ganglion cells have clinically been termed microcystic macular oedema (MME). We describe a case series of MME in patients of all ages but predominantly younger patients with a wide range of optic atrophies ranging from acute onset optic disc drusen associated ischemic optic neuropathy to slowly progressive disease as glaucoma. There were no physical distinctions between MME in different causes of optic atrophy suggesting a common causative mechanism. We reviewed the literature on MME and it appears that MME is associated with more severe visual loss, and is more common in hereditary optic neuropathies and neuromyelitis optica spectrum disease rather than in patients with optic atrophy secondary to multiple sclerosis and glaucoma. Three main causative mechanisms have been proposed, including increased vitreal traction on the macular as the ganglion cells are lost. Others have suggested that trans-synaptic loss of cells in the inner nuclear layer causes formation of empty spaces or cavities. Finally, some have hypothesized a disturbance in the fluid homeostasis of the inner retina as Müller cells are lost or their function is impaired. There are no known treatments of MME. In conclusion, MME seems to be a marker of severe optic nerve atrophy irrespective of the underlying cause.

Original languageEnglish
JournalClinical and Experimental Ophthalmology
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)1075-1086
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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