Hard exudates are yellowish intraretinal deposits made up of serum lipoproteins. They are the result of leaking from the abnormally permeable blood vessels, especially microaneurysms.

Hard exudates may be observed in several retinal vascular pathologies, but are a main hallmark of diabetic macular edema. If macular edema is diagnosed in an early and still asymptomatic stage, laser treatment can be very efficient and prevent vision loss. In a screening context, the easiest way of detecting macular edema is to detect hard exudates and their distance to the macula.

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