We observed a difference in the thermal response of localized reflectance signal of human skin between type 2 diabetics and nondiabetics. We investigated the use of this thermo-optical behavior as the basis for a noninvasive method for the determination of the diabetic status of a subject. We used a two-site temperature differential method, which is predicated upon the measurement of localized reflectance from two areas on the surface of the skin. Each of these areas is subjected to a different thermal perturbation. The response of localized reflectance to temperature perturbation was measured and used in a classification algorithm. We used a discriminant function to classify subjects as diabetic or nondiabetic. In a prediction set of twenty-four noninvasive tests collected from six diabetic and six nondiabetic subjects, the sensitivity ranged between 73 and 100%, and the specificity ranged between 75 and 100%, depending on the thermal conditions and the probe–skin contact time. The difference in the thermo-optical response of the skin of the two groups is explained in terms of a difference in the response of cutaneous microcirculation, which is manifested as a difference in the near-infrared light absorption. Another factor is the difference in the temperature response of the scattering coefficient between the two groups, which may be caused by cutaneous structural differences induced by nonenzymatic glycation of skin protein fibers, and possibly by the difference in blood cell aggregation. © 2003 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers.