Purpose: The retinal blood vessels provide a unique way to directly examine the human microvasculature, which is frequently damaged in individuals with diabetes. Previous studies have demonstrated that retinal flickering light-induced vasodilation and hyperoxia-induced vasoconstriction may operate by enhancing or reducing similar vasoregulatory factor(s), but a comparison between these two provocative stimuli in individuals with diabetes has not been studied. The purpose of the study was to examine the association between retinal flickering light-induced vasodilation and retinal hyperoxia-induced vasoconstriction in type 2 diabetic subjects and in healthy controls. Methods: Twenty men and women with type 2 diabetes and 10 men and women without diabetes between 21 and 75 years of age were recruited. Changes in retinal artery and vein diameters to flickering light and during hyperoxia (100% oxygen) stimuli were measured on the same visit using a noninvasive retinal imaging device (Dynamic Vessel Analyzer, Imedos Inc., Germany). Results: Compared with controls, diabetic subjects had impaired arterial vasodilator and vasoconstrictor responses to both flickering light and hyperoxia, respectively (both p < 0.001). Merging both groups, an inverse correlation (r = -0.56; p = 0.003) between the retinal artery's responses to flickering light-induced vasodilation and hyperoxia-induced vasoconstriction was demonstrated independent of glucose or insulin levels. Conclusion: This suggests that both responses are attenuated to a similar degree in diabetic subjects and that the attenuation to both stimuli can be observed in retinal arteries and veins. This would suggest that similar vasoregulatory factor(s) might in part help to explain the retinal diameter responses between the two stimuli. One suggested common vasoregulator of vascular tone is nitric oxide; however, other factor(s) may be involved, which contribute to this association and require further research.
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