Calcium dobesilate possesses antioxidant properties and protects against capillary permeability by reactive oxygen species in the rat peritoneal cavity, but whether a similar action can take place in the diabetic rat retina is unknown. We investigated the oral treatment of diabetic rats with calcium dobesilate on the prevention of free radical-mediated retinal injury induced by ischemia/reperfusion (90 min ischemia followed by 3 min and/or 24 h of reperfusion). Streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats were orally treated with 50 and 100 mg/kg of calcium dobesilate for 10 days (n=12 in each group). In the first series of studies, calcium dobesilate was found to significantly reduce the maldistribution of ion content in diabetic ischemic/reperfused rat retina. Thus, in diabetic rats treated with 100 mg/kg/day calcium dobesilate, ischemia/reperfusion provoked: (i) 27.5% increase in retinal Na(+) content compared to 51.8% in the vehicle-treated group (P<0.05), and (ii) 59.6% increase in retinal Ca(2+) content compared to 107.1% in vehicle-treated animals (P<0.05). In the second series of studies, calcium dobesilate was found to significantly protect diabetic rat retina against inhibition of Na(+)/K(+)-ATPase and Ca(2+)/Mg(2+)-ATPase activities by ischemia/reperfusion (54% and 41% reduction, respectively, with 100 mg/kg of calcium dobesilate) and also against changes in retinal ATP, reduced glutathione (GSH), and oxidized glutathione (GSSG) contents. In the third series of experiments, rats treated with 100 mg/kg of calcium dobesilate reduced the hydroxyl radical signal intensity to 41% (measured by electron paramagnetic resonance), induced by ischemia/reperfusion in diabetic rat retina. Finally, 100 mg/kg calcium dobesilate significantly reduced retinal edema (measured by the thickness of the inner plexiform layer) in diabetic rats. In conclusion, oral treatment with calcium dobesilate significantly protected diabetic rat retina against oxidative stress induced by ischemia/reperfusion. Whether the antioxidant properties of calcium dobesilate explain, at least in part, its beneficial therapeutic effects in diabetic retinopathy deserves further investigation.