What is the role of hypoxia in the pathophysiology of diabetic retinopathy?

Updated: Sep 02, 2021
  • Author: Abdhish R Bhavsar, MD; Chief Editor: Romesh Khardori, MD, PhD, FACP  more...
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Answer

As the disease progresses, eventual closure of the retinal capillaries occurs, leading to hypoxia. Infarction of the nerve fiber layer leads to the formation of cotton-wool spots, with associated stasis in axoplasmic flow.

More extensive retinal hypoxia triggers compensatory mechanisms in the eye to provide enough oxygen to tissues. Venous caliber abnormalities, such as venous beading, loops, and dilation, signify increasing hypoxia and almost always are seen bordering the areas of capillary nonperfusion. Intraretinal microvascular abnormalities represent either new vessel growth or remodeling of preexisting vessels through endothelial cell proliferation within the retinal tissues to act as shunts through areas of nonperfusion.


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