The objective of this study was to describe incidence and progression of diabetic retinopathy in relation to medical risk indicators as well as visual acuity outcome after a continuous follow-up period of 10 years in a Type 1 diabetic population treated under routine care. The incidence and progression of retinopathy and their association to HbA(1c), blood pressure, urinary albumin, serum creatinine levels, and insulin dosage were studied prospectively in 452 Type 1 diabetic patients. The degree of retinopathy was classified as no retinopathy, background, or sight-threatening retinopathy, i.e. clinically significant macular edema, severe nonproliferative, or proliferative retinopathy. Impaired visual acuity was defined as a visual acuity <0.5 and blindness as a visual acuity < or =0.1 in the best eye. In patients still alive at follow-up (n=344), 61% (69/114) developed any retinopathy, 45% (51/114) background retinopathy, and 16% (18/114) sight-threatening retinopathy. Progression from background to sight-threatening retinopathy occurred in 56% (73/131). In 2% (6/335), visual acuity dropped to <0.5 and in less than 1% (3/340) to < or =0.1. Patients who developed any retinopathy and patients who progressed to sight-threatening retinopathy had higher mean HbA(1c) levels over time compared to those who remained stable (P<.001 in both cases). Patients who developed any retinopathy had higher levels of mean diastolic blood pressure (P=.036), whereas no differences were seen in systolic blood pressure levels between the groups. Cox regression analysis, including all patients, showed mean HbA(1c) to be an independent risk indicator for both development and progression of retinopathy, whereas mean diastolic blood pressure was only a risk indicator for the incidence of retinopathy. Metabolic control is an important risk indicator for both development and progression of retinopathy, whereas diastolic blood pressure is important for the development of retinopathy in Type 1 diabetes. The number of patients who became blind during 10 years of follow-up was low.