The vascular beds supplying the retina may sustain injury as a result of underlying disease such as diabetes, and/or the interaction of genetic predisposition, environmental insults, and age. The vascular pathologic features observed in different intraocular vascular diseases can be categorized broadly as proliferation, exemplified by proliferative diabetic retinopathy, leakage such as macular edema secondary to retinal vein occlusion, or a combination of proliferation and leakage, as seen in neovascular age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The World Health Organization has identified diabetic retinopathy and AMD as priority eye diseases for the prevention of vision loss in developed countries. The pathologic transformations of the retinal vasculature seen in intraocular vascular disease are associated with increased expression of vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF), a potent endothelial-specific mitogen. Furthermore, in model systems, VEGF alone is sufficient to trigger intraocular neovascularization, and its inhibition is associated with functional and anatomic improvements in the affected eye. Therapeutic interventions with effect on VEGF include intraocular capture and neutralization by engineered antibodies or chimeric receptors, downregulation of its expression with steroids, or alleviation of retinal ischemia, a major stimulus for VEGF expression, with retinal ablation by laser treatment. Data from prospective randomized clinical trials indicate that VEGF inhibition is a potent therapeutic strategy for intraocular vascular disease. These findings are changing clinical practice and are stimuli for further study of the basic mechanisms controlling intraocular angiogenesis.
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Copyright © 2013 American Academy of Ophthalmology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.