Diabetic retinopathy: pathogenesis and therapeutic implications

Authors: Terezie Pelikánová
Authors‘ workplace: Centrum diabetologie IKEM, Praha
Published in: Vnitř Lék 2016; 62(7-8): 620-628
Category: Reviews


Diabetic retinopathy (DR) develops in patients with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes and is the major cause of vision loss and blindness in the working population. The main risk factor of DR is hyperglycemia accompanied by enhanced mitochondrial production of reactive oxygen species and oxidative stress, formation of advanced glycation end products (AGE) and hexosamines, increase in polyol metabolism of glucose. The severity of vascular injury depends on the individual genetic background and is modified by other epigenetic, metabolic and haemodynamic factors, including hypertension, dyslipidemia and oxidative stress. In diabetes, damage to the retina occurs in the vasculature (endothelial cells and pericytes), neurons and glia, pigment epithelial cells and infiltrating immunocompetent cells: monocytes, granulocytes, lymfocytes. These activated cells change the production pattern of a number of mediators such as growth factors, proinflammatory cytokines, vasoactive molecules, coagulation factors and adhesion molecules resulting in increased blood flow, increased capillary permeability, proliferation of extracellular matrix and thickening of basal membranes, altered cell turnover (apoptosis, proliferation, hypertrophy), procoagulant and proaggregant pattern, and finally in angiogenesis and tissue remodelling. Brain, liver, adipose tissue, GUT, skeletal muscle and other tissues could be another source of mediators. Therapeutic approaches used for patients with or at risk for diabetic retinopathy include drug therapy to reduce modifiable risk factors, laser photocoagulation, intravitreous administration of anti-VEGF agents/steroids and intraocular surgery. Screening plays an important role in early detection and intervention to prevent the progression of diabetic retinopathy. Described insights into pathophysiological mechanisms responsible for DR, could help in the development of more targeted approach for prevention and treatment of diabetic retinopathy.

Key words:
anti-VEGF – diabetic dyslipidemia – growth factors – hyperglycemia – hypertension – microRNA – oxidative stress – retinopathy


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