The ocular hemodynamics in diabetic patients with increasingly severe retinopathy have been evaluated using a non-invasive computerized methodology. In a group of 19 healthy volunteers the mean ophthalmic arterial pressure and the ocular pulsatile blood flow were 83 +/- 2.4 mmHg and 648 +/- 42 microliters min-1 respectively. Nine diabetics with no apparent retinopathy had ophthalmic pressures and pulsatile blood flows similar to those in the control subjects. In 11 diabetic patients with background retinopathy the mean pulsatile blood flow was 471 +/- 70 microliters min-1. Thirteen diabetics with proliferative retinopathy had a pulsatile blood flow of 210 +/- 37 microliters min-1 and abnormally low ophthalmic arterial pressures. The results provide evidence that the choroidal blood flow decreases with the severity of the retinopathy in diabetes due to increased vascular resistance and a decreased ocular perfusion pressure.