Diabetic retinopathy (DR), a major microvascular complication of diabetes, has a significant impact on the world's health systems. Globally, the number of people with DR will grow from 126.6 million in 2010 to 191.0 million by 2030, and we estimate that the number with vision-threatening diabetic retinopathy (VTDR) will increase from 37.3 million to 56.3 million, if prompt action is not taken. Despite growing evidence documenting the effectiveness of routine DR screening and early treatment, DR frequently leads to poor visual functioning and represents the leading cause of blindness in working-age populations. DR has been neglected in health-care research and planning in many low-income countries, where access to trained eye-care professionals and tertiary eye-care services may be inadequate. Demand for, as well as, supply of services may be a problem. Rates of compliance with diabetes medications and annual eye examinations may be low, the reasons for which are multifactorial. Innovative and comprehensive approaches are needed to reduce the risk of vision loss by prompt diagnosis and early treatment of VTDR.