Published online Mar 9, 2013. doi: 10.5497/wjp.v2.i1.18
Revised: November 30, 2012
Accepted: January 5, 2013
Published online: March 9, 2013
Diabetic retinopathy (DR) and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are the leading causes of blindness in adults. The impact of these conditions on the quality of life is increasing in significance with a rise in life expectancy. The role of hyperglycemia, oxidative stress and inflammatory responses in the development and/or progression of DR and AMD, and several other sight threatening ocular diseases, is well established. In proliferative retinopathy, signals sent by the retina for nourishment, triggers the growth of fragile and abnormal blood vessels. Changes in ocular pressure may lead to rupture of these blood vessels causing severe vision problems. Recent in vitro and preclinical studies demonstrate that certain phytochemicals possessing potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity and ocular blood flow enhancing properties may be very useful in the treatment of, or as a prophylactic measure for, DR and AMD. Apart from these properties they have also been investigated for their anti-bacterial, hormonal, enzyme stimulation, and anti-angiogenic activities. The attractive aspect of these potential therapeutic candidates is that they can act on multiple pathways identified in the etiology of DR, AMD, cataract and other ocular diseases. However, results from clinical trials have been somewhat ambiguous, raising questions about the concentrations of these bioflavonoids achieved in the neural retina following oral administration. Unfortunately, as of date, an efficient noninvasive means to deliver therapeutic agents/candidates to the back-of-the eye is still not available. This review examines some of these promising natural agents and discusses the challenges encountered in delivering them to the posterior segment ocular tissues through the oral route.