Background: Periodic dilated eye examinations are recommended by the American Optometric Association, American Academy of Ophthalmology, and American Diabetes Association to detect sight-threatening conditions in diabetic patients. However, many patients with diabetes do not receive this recommended eye care and there is limited research to explain why. The objective of this study was to determine reasons some diabetic patients do not receive a dilated eye examination at least every year. Methods: A chart review identified patients at The Ohio State University College of Optometry who had not been examined for more than a year, but less than two years. A telephone interview was attempted for all subjects. Results: Of 100 eligible subjects, 43 completed the telephone interview. The reasons patients with diabetes did not return for a recommended dilated eye examination included transfer of care to another eye doctor, limited personal mobility due to poor overall health, last examination at a homeless clinic, self-reported lack of insurance, and self-reported apathy. Conclusions: Strategies to improve compliance of patients with diabetes should include reaching patients of low socioeconomic status and those institutionalized for poor overall health. Improved compliance may also come by encouraging patients to use medical insurance for eye examinations and using patient recall systems. © 2004 American Optometric Association.