A cohort of 6792 NIDDM patients attending a diabetes centre at Madras in South India was screened using a combination of retinal photography and clinical examination by retinal specialists. A total of 2319 patients (34.1%) had evidence of retinopathy. This included 2090 patients (30.8%) with non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy including 435 patients (6.4%) with maculopathy and 229 patients (3.4%) with proliferative diabetic retinopathy. Multiple logistic regression analyses showed that duration of diabetes, glycosylated haemoglobin, type of treatment (insulin treatment versus non-insulin treatment), systolic and diastolic blood pressures and serum creatinine, showed a positive association with retinopathy while body mass index (BMI) showed an inverse association. The prevalence rates of retinopathy in Southern Indians are comparable to those seen in Europeans. However in view of the high prevalence of diabetes in the Indian sub-continent, diabetic retinopathy could become a formidable challenge in the future.