Although the prevalence of all stages of diabetic retinopathy has been declining since 1980 in populations with improved diabetes control, the crude prevalence of visual impairment and blindness caused by diabetic retinopathy worldwide increased between 1990 and 2015, largely because of the increasing prevalence of type 2 diabetes, particularly in low-income and middle-income countries. Screening for diabetic retinopathy is essential to detect referable cases that need timely full ophthalmic examination and treatment to avoid permanent visual loss. In the past few years, personalised screening intervals that take into account several risk factors have been proposed, with good cost-effectiveness ratios. However, resources for nationwide screening programmes are scarce in many countries. New technologies, such as scanning confocal ophthalmology with ultrawide field imaging and handheld mobile devices, teleophthalmology for remote grading, and artificial intelligence for automated detection and classification of diabetic retinopathy, are changing screening strategies and improving cost-effectiveness. Additionally, emerging evidence suggests that retinal imaging could be useful for identifying individuals at risk of cardiovascular disease or cognitive impairment, which could expand the role of diabetic retinopathy screening beyond the prevention of sight-threatening disease.