Visual evoked potentials (VEPs) were assessed under basal conditions and after photostress in normal control subjects, in insulin-dependent diabetic patients with retinopathy (IDDPWR) and in insulin-dependent diabetic patients without retinopathy (IDDP). The VEPs recorded under basal conditions showed a P100 latency significantly higher in IDDP and IDDP-WR eyes than in control eyes and in IDDPWR than in IDDP eyes (P < 0.01). N75-P100 amplitude was significantly lower in IDDP and IDDPWR eyes than in control eyes (P < 0.01). No difference was recorded in the N75-P100 amplitudes between IDDP and IDDPWR eyes. In all eyes, the VEPs recorded after photostress showed an increase in latency and a decrease in amplitude. In both IDDPWR eyes and IDDP eyes VEPs recorded at 20, 40 and 60 s after photostress showed higher mean increments in P100 latency than in C control eyes, and IDDPWR eyes showed higher mean increments in P100 latency than IDDP eyes (IDDP vs control P < 0.01, IDDPWR vs control P < 0.01, IDDPWR vs IDDP P < 0.017). The mean reductions in amplitude observed at 20, 40 and 60 s after photostress in IDDP and IDDPWR eyes were lower than in control eyes (IDDP vs control P = 0.01, IDDPWR vs control P < 0.01, IDDPWR vs IDDP P < 0.01). VEPs were superimposable on the basal VEP (recovery time) at 73.9 s in control eyes, at 88.17 s in IDDP eyes and at 113.3 s in IDDPWR eyes. VEPs after photostress in IDDP patients with normal visual acuity and no fluorangiographic signs of retinopathy may show multiple modifications. This may indicate the presence of an early functional deficiency of the central retinal layers.