Aim: To investigate, in a large cohort of 2494 individuals with diabetes mellitus, whether functional single nucleotide polymorphisms in the promoter region of tumour necrosis factor (TNF) and lymphotoxin-alpha (LTA) genes are associated with type of diabetes or presence of diabetic retinopathy. Methods: A total of 334 type 1 diabetes and 999 type 2 diabetes participants with sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy, and 260 type 1 diabetes and 901 type 2 diabetes participants with no diabetic retinopathy or minimal non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy, were genotyped for two single nucleotide polymorphisms (rs1800629 and rs361525). Results: The A allele of rs1800629 was associated with type 1 diabetes (p < 0.001; odds ratio = 0.62). After adjustment for age, sex, diabetes duration, HbA1c, hypertension and nephropathy, no significant association was found between rs1800629 or rs361525 and sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy. Conclusion: An association between the A allele of rs1800629 and type of diabetes was found. No association was found between two promoter variants of TNF and LTA, and diabetic retinopathy in a large cohort of Caucasian patients with type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.