On the pathogenesis of diabetic retinopathy. A 1990 update

Ophthalmology. 1991 May;98(5):586-93. doi: 10.1016/s0161-6420(91)32253-x.


Although most investigators now agree that chronic hyperglycemia is the basis for diabetic retinopathy, this has not been proven definitively. Even if chronic hyperglycemia is the initial common pathway leading to retinopathy and other complications of diabetes, it appears to act by different mechanisms in different tissues. The enzyme, aldose reductase, may play a major role in the development of diabetic retinopathy, but contradictory evidence exists. At the present time, results of the only study of aldose reductase inhibition and diabetic retinopathy reported in humans were negative. Another mechanism worthy of consideration is nonenzymatic glycation (glycosylation) of proteins, but there is no direct evidence of a causal role in diabetic retinopathy. Several growth factors have been identified in the retina that may promote neovascularization, and at least two inhibitors may prevent the process. There is evidence to support a role for basic and, perhaps, acidic fibroblast growth factors in retinal vasoproliferation. Transforming growth-factor beta, a peptide produced by capillary pericytes and smooth muscle cells and activated by the interaction of these cells with vascular endothelial cells, appears to be an important inhibitor of neovascularization, as is the vascular basement membrane.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aldehyde Reductase / metabolism
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / enzymology
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / etiology*
  • Glycosylation
  • Growth Substances / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Retinal Neovascularization / metabolism
  • Retinal Vessels / enzymology


  • Growth Substances
  • Aldehyde Reductase