Flicker Light-Induced Retinal Vasodilation in Diabetes and Diabetic Retinopathy Academic Article uri icon


  • OBJECTIVE:Flicker light-induced retinal vasodilation may reflect endothelial function in the retinal circulation. We investigated flicker light-induced vasodilation in individuals with diabetes and diabetic retinopathy. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS:Participants consisted of 224 individuals with diabetes and 103 nondiabetic control subjects. Flicker light-induced retinal vasodilation (percentage increase over baseline diameter) was measured using the Dynamic Vessel Analyzer. Diabetic retinopathy was graded from retinal photographs. RESULTS:Mean +/- SD age was 56.5 +/- 11.8 years for those with diabetes and 48.0 +/- 16.3 years for control subjects. Mean arteriolar and venular dilation after flicker light stimulation were reduced in participants with diabetes compared with those in control subjects (1.43 +/- 2.10 vs. 3.46 +/- 2.36%, P < 0.001 for arteriolar and 2.83 +/- 2.10 vs. 3.98 +/- 1.84%, P < 0.001 for venular dilation). After adjustment for age, sex, diabetes duration, fasting glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, current smoking status, systolic blood pressure, and use of antihypertensive and lipid-lowering medications, participants with reduced flicker light-induced vasodilation were more likely to have diabetes (odds ratio 19.7 [95% CI 6.5-59.1], P < 0.001 and 8.14 [3.1-21.4], P < 0.001, comparing lowest vs. highest tertile of arteriolar and venular dilation, respectively). Diabetic participants with reduced flicker light-induced vasodilation were more likely to have diabetic retinopathy (2.2 [1.2-4.0], P = 0.01 for arteriolar dilation and 2.5 [1.3-4.5], P = 0.004 for venular dilation). CONCLUSIONS:Reduced retinal vasodilation after flicker light stimulation is independently associated with diabetes status and, in individuals with diabetes, with diabetic retinopathy. Our findings may therefore support endothelial dysfunction as a pathophysiological mechanism underlying diabetes and its microvascular manifestations.


  • Nguyen, TT
  • Kawasaki, R
  • Wang, JJ
  • Kreis, AJ
  • Shaw, J
  • Vilser, W
  • Wong, TY

publication date

  • November 1, 2009