Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is the most prevalent microvascular complication of diabetes and a leading cause of preventable blindness in the working-age population. However, due to a lack of suitable biomarkers, its prediction in asymptomatic patients is insufficient. Currently, DR is diagnosed at a stage when typical morphologic lesions become fundoscopically visible. Yet, chronically elevated blood glucose levels lead to characteristic alterations in retinal vessel caliber, blood flow, oxygen saturation, and the capillary network, which precede DR lesions. Furthermore, emerging evidence suggests that retinal neurodegenerative changes occur early in diabetes, initiating a disintegration of the retinal neurovascular unit prior to the appearance of microvasculopathy in DR. This chapter will discuss recent research achievements toward understanding the complexities of DR pathophysiology. It will focus on the nomination of potential imaging biomarkers for the prediction of DR development and progression using innovative structural, functional, and metabolic imaging techniques, including optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA), retinal oximetry, ultra-wide field FA, and corneal confocal microscopy (CCM). Validation of these biomarkers would allow the identification of patients at high risk of developing DR and might initiate a swift move to early diagnosis and individualized care.
Part of the book: Early Events in Diabetic Retinopathy and Intervention Strategies