Diabetic retinopathy is a frequent cause of visual impairment in working-age adults (≥ 30 years) and in Japan is most commonly observed in those aged 50–69 years. Diabetic macular edema (DME) is one of the main causes of vision disturbance in diabetic retinopathy, which is a clinically significant microvascular complication of diabetes. Anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) therapy is becoming the mainstay of treatment for DME. However, to achieve sustained long-term improvement in visual acuity, conventional laser photocoagulation, vitrectomy and steroid therapy are also expected to play a role in the treatment of DME. This review summarizes the epidemiology and pathology of diabetic retinopathy and DME, evaluates the findings regarding the diagnosis and treatment of DME, and underscores the importance of systemic management of the disease in the context of the current health care situation in Japan. Finally, the unmet needs of patients with DME and prospects for research are discussed. The weight of evidence suggests that it is important to establish a multipronged treatment strategy centered on anti-VEGF therapy.
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