The relationship between blood pressure and diabetic retinopathy was evaluated in 249 young subjects with type I diabetes. Although hypertension is known to be associated with an increased risk for retinopathy, the effects of high-normal blood pressure are unknown. Retinopathy (158 of 249 subjects, 63%) is considerably more common in a young diabetic population than is hypertension (7 of 249 subjects, 2%). Thus, if blood pressure is important in the etiology or progression of diabetic retinopathy, levels below the hypertensive range (less than 141/90 mmHg) must be considered. The combined effect of hypertension and high-normal blood pressure (greater than 90th percentile but less than 141/90 mmHg) was studied. Elevation in diastolic blood pressure, alone, and in combination with elevated systolic blood pressure, correlated significantly (P less than 0.03) with retinopathy. The presence of high-normal blood pressure resulted in a prospectively higher occurrence of retinopathy and of progression of preexisting retinopathy. Glycohemoglobin (HbA1) and duration of diabetes also correlated with retinopathy. Both good glycemic control and maintenance of diastolic blood pressure below the 90th percentile for age may be important in relation to diabetic retinopathy.