Preventing Eye Problems When You Have Diabetes

older person wearing glasses

Taking good care of your eyes is essential. Certain foods have nutrients that can help protect your eyes and may lower your risk of eye diseases. If you have diabetes, eye diseases are more common and controlling blood sugar levels is one of the most important things you can do to prevent eye disease. Eating a nutritious diet is also important. Here are some tips to help you choose the best foods for eye health.

What nutrients can help keep my eyes healthy?

To help protect your eyes from eye diseases, choose foods that have vitamin A and carotenoids. Lutein and beta-carotene are two carotenoids that may reduce the risk of eye diseases. Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body. Here are some foods that are important for eye health:

Vitamin C, vitamin E and minerals such as selenium and zinc are also important for eye health. Here are some examples of what foods you can find them in:

  • Vitamin C: sweet peppers, broccoli, cabbage, papaya, kiwi, oranges and strawberries
  • Vitamin E: almonds, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, fish and leafy greens
  • Zinc: lean meat, fish, seafood (especially oysters), pumpkin seeds and wheat germ
  • Selenium: nuts and seeds (especially Brazil nuts), fish and seafood

High dose supplements made from these nutrients are not recommended for preventing eye disease. The best way to get these nutrients is by eating a balanced diet following  Canada’s Food Guide. You may consider a multivitamin and mineral supplement however - speak to your dietitian for more information.

I have diabetes. Do I have a higher risk of developing eye diseases?

Diabetes is the single leading cause of blindness in Canada. If your blood sugar is not well controlled, you may have a higher risk of: 

  • blurred vision
  • having trouble getting your eyes to focus
  • developing cataracts
  • developing retinopathy
  • developing glaucoma
  • developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

Diabetes can affect many parts of your body, including your blood vessels and your eyes. Some eye diseases, such as retinopathy, are caused by a change in the tiny blood vessels that feed the retina of the eye. High blood sugar in diabetes can also cause the lens of the eye to swell, which changes your ability to see.

How can I lower my risk of eye diseases if I have diabetes?

There are no specific foods or nutrients that decrease the risk of developing glaucoma, cataracts or retinopathy. To help prevent these diseases or stop them from getting worse, people with diabetes should manage their blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and consider getting support to stop smoking. Stable blood sugar levels result in fewer eye problems. Work with your dietitian to create an eating plan that works for you. Read more about how to manage diabetes. In the meantime, check out our diabetes menu plan.

How can a dietitian help?

A dietitian can work with you to make sure you are getting all the important nutrients that are needed to keep your eyes healthy, as well as keep your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol in check. They will create a personalized plan that considers your medical history, preferences, culture and lifestyle. Connect with a dietitian today!

Bottom line

A balanced diet rich in vegetables and fruits can help keep your eyes healthy. It is important to control your blood sugar levels to keep your eyes healthy. 

It is also vital to have routine eye examinations. Many eye problems can be treated with greater success when they are caught early.

You may also be interested in:

How to manage diabetes    
What you need to know about vitamin A    
Diabetes Recipe Booklets

This article was written and reviewed by dietitians from Dietitians of Canada

Last Update – January 17, 2022

Phone Icon

Dietitians look beyond fads to deliver reliable, life-changing advice. Want to unlock the potential of food? Connect with a dietitian.