Fluorescein angiograms were performed to evaluate perifoveal capillary blood velocities (v), capillary density (perifoveal intercapillary areas: PIA) and the foveal avascular zone (FAZ) by means of the scanning laser technique (SLO-101 Rodenstock). The angiograms were digitally stored and the data quantified off-line with an image analyzing system (IBAS). In the present study 46 patients with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) were examined and their data compared with that of 31 healthy volunteers. The perifoveal capillary flow velocity of the NIDDM subjects (v = 2.33 +/- 0.36 mm/s) was significantly (P < 0.01) decreased as compared to healthy subjects (v = 2.86 +/- 0.41 mm/s). The perifoveal intercapillary areas in the foveal avascular zone were significantly increased in patients with NIDDM (PIA = 10029 +/- 3402 microns2; FAZ = 0.415 +/- 0.272 mm2) as compared with healthy subjects (PIA = 3965 +/- 467 microns2; FAZ = 0.221 +/- 0.071 mm2). These data suggest the possibility that a decrease in perifoveal capillary blood velocities in combination with decreased capillary density (enlarged PIA) and an enlargement of the foveal avascular zone may occur in patients with NIDDM. The determination of these parameters could help in monitoring the progress of diabetic retinopathy and diabetic maculopathy.