The effects of strict diabetic control on retinal haemodynamics were studied to elucidate whether such effects are associated with retinopathy changes. In 28 patients with poorly controlled insulin dependent diabetes mellitus and non-proliferative retinopathy, retinal haemodynamics were investigated at baseline, 5 days, 2 months, and 6 months after the institution of strict diabetic control using the bidirectional laser Doppler velocimetry technique and monochromatic fundus photography. Changes in retinal blood flow measured in a major retinal vein (Q) on the fifth day of strict diabetic control correlated significantly with changes in retinopathy level observed at the end of the 6 months of this study (rank correlation 0.65, p < 0.01). On the fifth day of strict diabetic control, 16 out of 20 eyes that showed no progression (NP) of retinopathy at the end of the study had decreases in Q, whereas six out of eight eyes that showed progression (P) had increases in Q. The difference in these changes in Q between P and NP eyes was statistically significant (one way analysis of variance, p = 0.001). No significant changes in Q were detected at 2 months or 6 months. Following the institution of strict diabetic control, no significant changes in time were detected in the regulatory response to 100% oxygen breathing characterised as the percentage decrease in Q at 4-6 minutes of oxygen breathing (analysis of variance, p = 0.36). Changes in Q following institution of strict diabetic control are associated with progression of retinopathy. Measurements described in this study may help identify diabetic patients at risk of progression when their metabolic control is improved.
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