Forty-six corneas from 25 patients who had had type II (adult-onset) diabetes for more than ten years were examined by specular microscopy with quantitative morphometric analyses of individual endothelial cells. Thirty-four corneas from 21 age-matched nondiabetic subjects were examined for comparison. We also examined 31 corneas from 17 patients with type I (juvenile-onset) diabetes and compared them to 41 corneas from 23 age-matched normal volunteers. The corneal endothelium in type II diabetes showed no difference in cell density but demonstrated a significantly higher coefficient of variation, a decrease in the percentage of hexagonal cells, and a low figure coefficient compared to an age-matched nondiabetic population. Type I diabetes produced similar cell changes, but these changes occurred in the earlier decades. Moreover, we detected a significantly higher rate of cell loss in type I diabetes, resulting in a significant decrease in cell density in the fourth and fifth decades. These results clearly indicate that the diabetic endothelium is morphologically abnormal. The observed anatomic changes result in a less stable and more vulnerable cell layer, possibly explaining some of the persistent clinical changes in the diabetic cornea after surgical trauma.