Data from the Diabetic Retinopathy Study (DRS) show that photocoagulad inhibited the progression of retinopathy. These beneficial effects were noted to some degree in all those stages of diabetic retinopathy which were included in the Study. Some deleterious effects of treatment were also found, including losses of visual acuity and constriction of peripheral visual field. The risk of these harmful effects was considered acceptable in eyes with retinopathy in the moderate or severe retinopathy in the moderate or severe proliferative stage when the risk of severe visual loss without treatment was great. In early proliferative or severe nonproliferative retinopathy, when the risk of severe visual loss without treatment was less, the risks of harmful treatment effects assumed greater importance. In these earlier stages, DRS findings have not led to a clear choice between prompt treatment and deferral of treatment unless and until progression to a more severe stage occurs.