Implication of Deep-Vascular-Layer Alteration Detected by Optical Coherence Tomography Angiography for the Pathogenesis of Diabetic Retinopathy

Ophthalmologica. 2019;241(4):179-182. doi: 10.1159/000495624. Epub 2019 Jan 16.


The aim of this narrative mini review is to analyze optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA) parameters from reports that involved both superficial and deep vascular layers in patients with diabetes and to assess their relevance for the pathogenesis of diabetic retinopathy (DR). Papers published from January 2015 to August 2018 describing the use of OCTA in diabetes were identified and reviewed through a Medline/PubMed search. OCTA studies suggest that parameters are altered in patients with diabetes in all retinal vascular layers. From all included studies that evaluated both the superficial and the deep vascular layer, a number of studies suggested that the deep vascular layer was affected at an earlier stage of DR. OCTA parameter alterations were more prominent in the deep vascular layer than in the superficial vascular layer in patients with DR, and deep-vascular-layer alterations were most evident in patients with diabetic macular edema. Regarding that retinal venules originate from the deep vascular layer of the retina, alteration of OCTA parameters at the deep vascular layer in diabetic patients may imply a predominant affection of the venous side of the retinal vascular system in the pathogenesis of DR.

Keywords: Diabetic retinopathy; Microcirculation; Optical coherence tomography angiography; Pathogenesis; Retinal vein.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetic Retinopathy / diagnosis*
  • Fluorescein Angiography / methods*
  • Fundus Oculi
  • Humans
  • Retinal Vessels / diagnostic imaging*
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence / methods*