AIMS--The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of instituting strict diabetic glycaemic control on the retinal macular microcirculation and to compare this effect with that observed in the main retinal veins. METHODS--In 28 insulin dependent diabetic patients with poor glycaemic control a regimen of strict diabetic control, consisting of four daily insulin injections was instituted and maintained for 6 months. Retinal haemodynamics were investigated in the macular microcirculation by the blue field simulation technique and in the major retinal veins by a combination of bidirectional laser Doppler velocimetry and monochromatic fundus photography. Progression of diabetic retinopathy was assessed from fundus photographs taken at baseline and at the end of the study. RESULTS--Institution of strict diabetic control resulted in a significant increase in leucocyte velocity in the macular circulation (p = 0.013). No significant difference in this increase was observed between eyes that showed progression (n = 8) and no progression (n = 20) of retinopathy during the study. Significant correlations were found between relative changes over time of blood flow measured in the main retinal veins and relative changes of leucocyte velocity determined in the macular microcirculation at 2 months (p = 0.008) and 6 months (p = 0.001) but not at 5 days (p = 0.49). In the eight eyes that showed progression of retinopathy, the product of leucocyte velocity and density at baseline was significantly higher than normal (p < 0.05). During the length of this study, this product was also significantly higher in the eight eyes that showed retinopathy progression than in the 20 eyes that did not show progression (p = 0.005). CONCLUSION--Our results suggest that increased flow in the macular microcirculation may be associated with progression of retinopathy, thus supporting the hypothesis that increased blood flow may play a role in the development of diabetic microangiopathy. Although there are correlations between the changes detected in the macular microcirculation and those measured in the main retinal vessels, there are also differences which need to be further investigated in order to better understand pathogenetic mechanisms.