How to Reduce Risk

​​​​There are four ways that people living with diabetes can take to proactively reduce their risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.

1. Maintaining blood sugar (glucose) levels

Nurse sitting with patient looking at a glucometer

Managing your blood sugar levels is the first step in decreasing your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. Blood sugar levels are measured using a blood sugar monitor and can be done in the comfort of your own home. Monitors are available at most pharmacies, but your diabetes educator or pharmacist will help you determine which one is right for you and provide you with the proper training.

If you are blind or partially sighted, talking blood sugar monitors are available. For more information, visit the blood sugar monitors section of this site.

While a monitor is key, there are other ways to help you achieve target blood sugar levels including maintaining a proper diet and exercising regularly.

2. Healthy eating

Woman cutting a tomato, glucose monitor and notebook in front a plate of fruit A balanced meal plan for people living with diabetes typically includes three meals per day at regular times and space meals no more than d four to six hours apart, and healthy snacks. Limit your sugars and , sweets such as regular pop and desserts. Limit the amount of high-fat foods you eat and consume more high fibre foods.

Talk to your family doctor about referring you to a registered dietitian and diabetes education program for support on healthy eating, including a healthy meal plan specific to your individual needs.

3. Physical activity

Physical activity, including aerobic exercise and resistance training, is an important part of reducing your risk for complications from diabetes, including vision loss. Aerobic exercise can include brisk walking, running, cycling, swimming, dancing, skiing and snowboarding. Resistance exercises like weight training improve muscle strength and complement the benefits of aerobic exercise.

Managing stress is an important part of blood sugar control. Physical activity can be a great way to manage stress levels and release tension.

While the benefits of exercise typically outweigh the risks, it’s important to know that exercise can affect blood sugar and sensitivity to insulin,  presenting risks for people with diabetes.

This is especially true for people living with type 1 diabetes. For this reason, it’s important that you speak with your doctor before beginning any type of exercise program.

4. Regular eye exams

Visiting your eye doctor for regular eye exams is beneficial to everyone, with or without diabetes, as your eyes are a window into your overall health.

If you are living with diabetes, regular eye exams can reduce your risk of developing diabetes-related eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy.

During an eye exam your doctor can detect changes in the eye, provide an early diagnosis if you have an eye condition, and offer treatment options that may prevent future vision loss.

See your eye doctor as soon as possible if you notice:

  • dark spots in your visual field.

  • blurred, distorted or double vision.

  • large “floaters” – specks in the form of dots, circles, lines or cobwebs that move across your field of vision. They’re most noticeable when looking at a white wall or clear sky. (These may or may not be a sign of diabetic retinopathy, but should be checked.)

If you do not have a medical condition that can affect your eyes, it is still important to get regular eye exams.

Since all medical situations and risk factors that apply to eye disease are individual, it is important to follow the recommendation of your eye doctor with respect to your individual need for eye exams.

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