Posted by: Carolinas Center for Sight in Eye Health

A morning donut here, a soda with lunch there – nearly every person consumes some level of sugar each day in their normal diet, and yet many of us don’t often think about the effect it can have on our bodies. Simply avoiding candy bars as an afternoon snack isn’t enough to maintain a healthy lifestyle, as so many packaged foods hide sugar within their labels.  

While a high sugar diet, whether intentional or not, can lead to a host of health issues, there’s a huge connection that not many make between our blood sugar and our eyesight. If you’re concerned about your vision now and into the future, keep reading to learn about how sugar can be considered a silent culprit in many serious eye conditions and diseases.

  • Diabetes: It’s a common myth that eating too much sugar will actually give a person diabetes, but there have been studies that find a link between the two. Millions of Americans are unaware that they have the condition, and if you eat high amounts of sugar when diabetic before receiving a diagnosis from your primary care provider, you’re setting yourself up for the risk of frequent vision changes.
  • Age-related macular degeneration: Our macula helps with central vision and provides us with the ability to read, drive, and do so much more, yet it is susceptible to deterioration from age-related macular degeneration. While many people do end up with AMD due to older age or other health issues, those who consume high sugar diets are at a greater risk of developing the disease early on.
  • Cataracts: Almost every person who reaches an advanced age will end up with cataracts, as the eye’s lens naturally hardens over time. However, cataracts can develop early on if you eat excess amounts of sugar. Studies have found that high blood sugar levels in the body cause the lens to swell and change. 
  • Glaucoma: Those with diabetes or uncontrolled blood sugar levels are nearly twice as likely to develop glaucoma, a condition where fluid doesn’t drain properly from the eyes. This can lead to a build-up of pressure and can permanently affect your vision. Eating a high sugar diet causes your blood vessels to narrow and can worsen the condition if it’s already present.
  • Diabetic retinopathy: While all of the parts of the eye are essential for clear vision, the retina is perhaps one of the most important. Located at the back of the eye, these cells transmit information to the brain for processing and, if damaged, can end in visual impairment. A high sugar diet can lead to diabetic retinopathy, a condition that damages these cells.

Although sugary foods certainly taste delicious, there’s more to think about than just your waistline while enjoying them. Try limiting your sugar intake and filling your plate with lean protein, fruits, and vegetables instead, and make sure to visit your ophthalmologist regularly. While some of the above conditions are permanent, many can be managed with treatment and, when diagnosed early on, may not permanently affect your vision.