Topical treatment of diabetic retinopathy: a systematic review

Mikkel S. Thagaard*, Anna S. Vergmann, Jakob Grauslund

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is the most common microvascular complication in diabetes and may cause severe visual impairment. Until late stages of DR, treatment options are limited. The aim of the present review was to investigate whether changes of DR might be influenced by topical treatment with eye drops. This systematic review included both randomized and non-randomized human clinical studies on the subject. A systematic search of PubMed Medline, Embase and Scopus databases yielded 710 studies. No inclusion criteria regarding classification of DR were defined. Reference lists as well as first authors were screened for the inclusion of additional studies. Potential bias of the randomized studies was assessed using the Cochrane Risk of Bias tool. Nineteen studies suitable for inclusion were identified. Seven studies were randomized trials. These examined 11 different pharmacological groups of drugs in DR. A favourable effect of corticosteroid eye drops in diabetic macular oedema (DMO) was reported in four studies, and another study reported a positive trend. Eye drops with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs were also reported to have a favourable effect in DMO, but not in non-center involving DMO. Application of neuroprotective agents was found effective in patients with pre-existing neurodegeneration in three studies. The remaining studies of DMO and DR were heterogeneous in both designs and results. Studies on treatment of DR with topical eye drops vary with regards to patient population, interventional drugs, study design, and outcome measures. Treatment of DR with eye drops was found effective in the aforementioned cases, but there is still a need for further investigations of long-term, randomized controlled trials in any of the reported pharmacological group.

Original languageEnglish
JournalACTA Ophthalmologica
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6. Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Acta Ophthalmologica Scandinavica Foundation. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd


  • diabetic macular oedema
  • diabetic retinopathy
  • eye drops
  • ophthalmic treatment
  • retinal disease
  • topical treatment


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