The relationship between HLA-DR phenotype, refractive error, and risk of both nonproliferative and proliferative diabetic retinopathy was studied among 227 insulin-dependent diabetics participating in a case-control study of diabetic retinopathy. In the absence of myopia, risk of both proliferative and nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy was increased for HLA-DR phenotypes 4/0, 3/0, and X/X (HLA susceptible) compared to HLA-DR phenotypes 3/4, 3/X, and 4/X (HLA nonsusceptible). Odds ratios equalled 11.8 and 7.4 respectively. In the presence of myopia this increased risk associated with HLA status was abolished. Myopia decreased the risk of proliferative and nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy among HLA-susceptible individuals, odds ratio equalled .09 and .09, but had no protective influence among HLA-nonsusceptible individuals.