The Asia-Pacific Journal of Ophthalmology

Asia-Pacific Journal of Ophthalmology:

Issue 1, January/February 2018 Review Article

Diabetic Macular Edema: Current Understanding, Pharmacologic Treatment Options, and Developing Therapies

Miller, Kevin; Fortun, Jorge A.

Author Information

From the *Department of Ophthalmology, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, Florida.

Reprints: Jorge A. Fortun, MD, 900 NW 17th Street, Miami, FL 33136. E-mail:


Diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema comprise a major source of visual disability throughout the developed world. The etiology and pathogenesis of macular edema is intricate and multifactorial, in which the hyperglycemic state in diabetes induces a microangiopathy. Through several inflammatory and vasogenic mediators, including vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) upregulation and inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, pathologic changes are induced in the vascular endothelium triggering breakdown of the blood retinal barrier, causing extravasation of fluid into the extracellular space and manifesting clinically as macular edema, resulting in visual loss. The advent of medications targeting the VEGF pathway has led to great clinical improvements compared with the previous standard of care of laser therapy alone, as shown in studies such as RISE, RIDE, VIVID, VISTA, and DRCR. However, analyses have shown that many patients have inadequate response or are nonresponders to anti-VEGF therapy, demonstrating the need for additional therapies to more comprehensively treat this disease. Although corticosteroid treatments and implants have demonstrated some efficacy in adjunctive and supplemental treatment, the need to more adequately treat macular edema remains. Our knowledge of diabetic macular edema continues to grow, leading to new currently available and emerging pharmacotherapies to further enhance our treatment and restore vision in those affected by diabetic macular edema. This review will discuss the pathogenesis of diabetic macular edema and the pharmacologic therapies available for its treatment, including anti-VEGF, steroids, and newer therapies still in development, such as angiopoietin antagonists, Tie2 agonists, kallikrein inhibitors, interleukin inhibitors, and others.

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