Diabetic retinopathy remains one of the major causes of acquired blindness in developed nations. This is true despite the development of laser treatment, which can prevent blindness in the majority of those who develop macular oedema (ME) or proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR). ME is manifest by retinal vascular leakage and thickening of the retina. The hallmark of PDR is neovascularisation (NV)--abnormal angiogenesis that may ultimately cause severe vitreous cavity bleeding and/or retinal detachment. Pharmacologic therapy aimed specifically at preventing vascular leakage and NV would be a welcome addition to the armamentarium. PDR and ME could be prevented by improved metabolic control or by pharmacologically blunting the biochemical consequences of hyperglycaemia (e.g., with aldose reductase inhibitors, inhibitors of non-enzymatic glycation or by protein kinase C [PKC] inhibition). The angiogenesis in PDR could be treated via growth factor (e.g., vascular endothelial growth factor [VEGF], insulin like growth factor-1 [IGF-1]) blockade, integrin (e.g., alpha-v beta-3) blockade, extracellular matrix alteration (e.g., with steroid compounds) or interference with intracellular signal transduction pathways (e.g., PKC and mitogen activated protein kinase [MAPK] pathway proteins). Some of these antiangiogenic agents may also prove useful for treating or preventing ME. Numerous potentially useful antiangiogenic compounds are in development; two drugs are presently in clinical trials for treatment of the preproliferative stage of PDR, while two are in clinical trials for treatment of ME.