A review of the pathologic picture of diabetic retinopathy shows that available clinical methods of examination demonstrate the alteration of the blood-retinal barrier (leakage), microaneurysms, capillary closure, preferential channels, preretinal neovascularization and gross extravascular lesions. All of these changes may be shown by fluorescein angiography. The value of this method, however, is fundamentally related to the morphologic demonstration of these lesions and not their quantification. Quantitative evaluation of retinal involvement in diabetes is needed in order to delineate more clearly its natural history, criteria for prognosis, and effect of treatment.

Vitreous fluorophotometry, a quantitative and sensitive method of evaluating the permeability of the blood-retinal barrier, has opened new perspectives for the evaluation of retinal involvement in diabetes. Vitreous fluorophotometry has shown that a disturbance of the blood-retinal barrier, possibly functional, appears in diabetic eyes before any lesion is clinically visible in the fundus, and that there is a close correlation between the severity of the vascular lesions and higher vitreous fluorophotometry readings. Recent studies also indicate an interesting correlation with metabolic control, particularly, glycosylated hemoglobin levels and insulin treatment.

Finally, on the basis of these findings a working hypothesis for the pathogenesis of diabetic retinopathy is presented.

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