The clinical implications of recent studies on the structure and function of the retinal microvasculature in diabetes.
The retinal blood vessels provide the opportunity to study early structural and functional changes in the microvasculature prior to clinically significant microvascular and macrovascular complications of diabetes. Advances in digital retinal photography and computerised assessment of the retinal vasculature have provided more objective and precise measurements of retinal vascular changes. Clinic- and population-based studies have reported that these quantitatively measured retinal vascular changes (e.g. retinal arteriolar narrowing and venular widening) are associated with preclinical structural changes in other microvascular systems (e.g. infarct in the cerebral microcirculation), as well as diabetes and diabetic complications, suggesting that they are markers of early microvascular dysfunction. In addition, there are new retinal imaging techniques to further assess alterations in retinal vascular function (e.g. flicker-induced vasodilatory response, blood flow and oxygen saturation) in diabetes and complications that result from the effects of chronic hyperglycaemia, inflammation and endothelial dysfunction. In this review, we summarise the latest findings on the relationships between quantitatively measured structural and functional retinal vascular changes with diabetes and diabetic complications. We also discuss clinical implications and future research to evaluate whether detection of retinal vascular changes has additional value beyond that achieved with methods currently used to stratify the risk of diabetes and its complications.
Cheung, CY; Ikram, MK; Klein, R; Wong, TY
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