Purpose Assessing the efficacy of treatment modalities for diabetic retinopathy (DR) from the patient's perspective is restricted due to a lack of a comprehensive patientreported outcome measure. We are developing a DRspecific quality of life (QoL) item bank, and we report here on the qualitative results from the first phase of this project. Methods Eight focus groups and 18 semi-structured interviews were conducted with 57 patients with DR. The sessions were transcribed verbatim and iteratively analysed using the constant comparative method and NVIVO software. Results Participants had a median age of 58 years (range 27-83 years). Twenty-seven (47%) participants had proliferative DR in the better eye, and 14 (25%) had clinically significant macular oedema. Nine QoL domains were identified, namely visual symptoms, ocular surface symptoms, vision-related activity limitation, mobility, emotional well-being, health concerns, convenience, social, and economic. Participants described many vision-related activity limitations, particularly under challenging lighting conditions; however, socioemotional issues were equally important. Participants felt frustrated due to their visual restrictions, concerned about further vision loss and had difficulty coping with this uncertainty. Restrictions on driving were pervasive, affecting transport, social life, relationships, responsibilities, work and independence. Conclusions Patients with DR experience many socioemotional issues in addition to vision-related activity limitations. Data from this study will be used to generate data for a DR-specific QoL item bank.