Vision-threatening diabetic retinopathy can be prevented if it is diagnosed before becoming too advanced. Since diabetic retinopathy has been reported to occur only rarely before the end of pubertal development, children and adolescents are seldom included in screening programmes. We invited 780 children and adolescents with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus diagnosed before the age of 15.0 years (disease duration of < 12 years) and who were older than 9.0 years at the time of examination from eight regions of Sweden. Retinal examination was performed with stereoscopic fundus photograph. The photograph were rated according to a modified Airlie House classification. The dropouts (223/780, 28.6%) were significantly older and with a longer duration of diabetes than the examined children (p < 0.001 and 0.001, respectively). Photographs from 557 patients aged (median [interquartile range]:14.6 [12.4-17.0]) years and with a diabetes duration of 8.0 (5.5-9.9) years were evaluated. Retinopathy was demonstrated in 81 patients (14.5%):66 with background retinopathy, 2 with microaneurysms and hard exudates, 12 with preproliferative retinopathy, 1 with proliferative retinopathy. Preproliferative retinopathy was diagnosed in a 12.8-year-old girl in pubertal stage 3 and an 11.8-year-old boy in pubertal stage 2, and proliferative retinopathy was found in a 21.5-year-old girl. Retinopathy was demonstrated in 6% and 18% of patients in pubertal stages 1 and 5, respectively. The overall prevalence of retinopathy in this population may even be higher since the dropouts were older and had a longer duration of diabetes. Since background and preproliferative retinopathy were found in children before puberty, we recommend including children and adolescents in screening programmes for diabetic retinopathy from the age of 10 years.