Diabetic retinopathy: an inflammatory disease

Stela Vujosevic, Caterina Toma


Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a complex multifactorial disease and one of the leading causes of visual impairment worldwide. DR pathogenesis is still not completely understood and, even if studies performed in the past focused on microvascular dysfunction as the main event, growing body of scientific evidence has demonstrated an important role of inflammation and neurodegeneration in the onset and progression of DR. This review summarizes current literature on the role of inflammation in the pathogenesis and progression of DR. In particular, it focuses on clinical inflammatory biomarkers detectable with non-invasive retinal imaging, suggestive of a local inflammatory condition. Current available treatments are applicable only at advanced stages of disease, therefore, there is the need to detect biomarkers of subclinical or early DR that can help in DR management before irreversible damage occurs. A better understanding of inflammatory pathways involved in DR may permit to implement more specific and personalized therapeutic strategies and clinical biomarkers may be a helpful tool in the everyday clinical practice to direct the patient to the most appropriate treatment option.