Functional imaging of the retina and associated structures may provide information for early assessment of risks of developing retinopathy in diabetic patients. Here we show results of retinal oximetry performed using multi-spectral reflectance imaging techniques to assess hemoglobin (Hb) oxygen saturation (OS) in blood vessels of the inner retina and oxygen utilization at the optic nerve in diabetic patients without retinopathy and early disease during experimental hyperglycemia. Retinal images were obtained through a fundus camera and simultaneously recorded at up to four wavelengths using image-splitting modules coupled to a digital camera. Changes in OS in large retinal vessels, in average OS in disk tissue, and in the reduced state of cytochrome oxidase (CO) at the disk were determined from changes in reflectance associated with the oxidation/reduction states of Hb and CO. Step to high sugar lowered venous oxygen saturation to a degree dependent on disease duration. Moderate increase in sugar produced higher levels of reduced CO in both the disk and surrounding tissue without a detectable change in average tissue OS. Results suggest that regulation of retinal blood supply and oxygen consumption are altered by hyperglycemia and that such functional changes are present before clinical signs of retinopathy.© (1999) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.