Diabetic retinopathy, a vascular and inflammatory disease: Therapeutic implications

Diabetes Metab. 2019 Dec;45(6):517-527. doi: 10.1016/j.diabet.2019.04.002. Epub 2019 Apr 18.


Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is the most common microvascular complication of diabetes and the leading cause of visual impairment in the working-age population in the Western world. Diabetic macular oedema (DME) is one of the major complications of DR. Therapy with intravitreal injections of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) drugs has become the gold standard treatment for DR and its complications. However, these drugs have no effect on the pathogenesis of DR and must be administered frequently via invasive intravitreal injections over many years. Thus, there is a pressing need to develop new therapeutic strategies to improve the treatment of this devastating disease. Indeed, an increasing volume of data supports the role of the inflammatory process in the pathogenesis of DR itself and its complications, including both increased retinal vascular permeability and neovascularization. Inflammation may also contribute to retinal neurodegeneration. Evidence that low-grade inflammation plays a critical role in the pathogenesis of DME has opened up new pathways and targets for the development of improved treatments. Anti-inflammatory compounds such as intravitreal glucocorticoids, topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antioxidants, inflammatory molecule inhibitors, renin-angiotensin system (RAS) blockers and natural anti-inflammatory therapies may all be considered to reduce the rate of administration of antineovascularization agents in the treatment of DR. This report describes the current state of knowledge of the potential role of anti-inflammatory drugs in controlling the onset and evolution of DR and DME.

Keywords: Anti-inflammatory therapies; Corticosteroids; Diabetic macular oedema; Diabetic retinopathy; Inflammation; NSAIDs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / administration & dosage
  • Diabetic Angiopathies / complications*
  • Diabetic Angiopathies / therapy
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / etiology*
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / therapy*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination / methods
  • Drug Therapy, Combination / trends
  • Glucocorticoids / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / complications*
  • Inflammation / therapy
  • Intravitreal Injections


  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Glucocorticoids