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5 tips from a Charleston eye doctor to save your child's vision

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Draisin Vision

“I see two of everything, but it’s OK. I know which one is the real one.”

“I need to sit closer to the TV. I can’t see it well when I sit on the couch.”

These are actual quotes that Jennifer Zolman, O.D., at Draisin Vision Group  in Charleston hears on a fairly common basis from her young patients.

Little do we as parents know, but vision health is something we should be taking seriously in our children as young as six months old. “That is when they should see the eye doctor for the first time,” Dr. Zolman said. “If everything is fine, they can come back again at three years old, then again before kindergarten and then every year after that for a comprehensive exam.”

A comprehensive exam is more than just reading off a chart. “We will be looking for signs and symptoms – things that kids may not think to tell you because to them it is normal,” she said. For example, some children reveal that words are moving on the page, which will be a detriment to learning to read.”

Comprehensive eye exams with an eye doctor will look at the history of the patient, visual acuity, refraction, binocular vision, ocular motility, color vision and they will do a thorough ocular and systemic health assessment.

Dr. Zolman said that probably the biggest threat to our vision today is screen time.

“There was definitely an increase in screen time with the pandemic and we have seen an increase in kids coming in with vision problems too,” she explained.

Here are some tips that Dr. Zolman shared on saving your child’s vision:

Dr. Jennifer Zolman

Screen time - Make sure the computer device is held further away from the child’s face. “Remember that children have shorter arms.” Dr. Zolman said that too much screen time can manifest into headaches and double vision. She suggested the 20-20-20 rule, which means that people should take a break from the computer every 20 minutes and look at something that is 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. “Take breaks and set a timer. Also put your computer by a window so you can gaze out of it every now and then.” Dr. Zolman also mentioned that children should not be looking at a computer screen before bed. “It disrupts the circadian rhythm and messes with the sleep/wake cycles.”

UV/UB - Sunlight is another issue that children in the Lowcountry deal with, especially in the summer. Dr. Zolman said 70% more UV light gets absorbed into the eye of a child versus an adult. “The lens of a child is more clear than adults so it takes in more light. Also, the pupil is larger so that also makes them more susceptible to UV light.” She suggests quality sunglasses that have UV/UB blockage. “Don’t just get sunglasses that have shade. You need the sunglasses with the sticker on them that say they block out UV/UB light.” She also said to start kids at a young age with wearing sunglasses and that they should wear a hat as well.

Puncture wounds – When accidents happen, Dr. Zolman said to veer on the side of “better safe than sorry.” She advised, “If you have any concern, just take your child to the doctor.” She said that many accidents will result in the child seeing flashes of light or floating spots and that the eye will turn red as well. She suggested that children wear safety goggles when they are engaging in play that seems risky or too rough.

Safety measures - Have the proper equipment. Dr. Zolman said, “Again, this could be UV sunglasses or safety goggles. Also, wear goggles when swimming if the children are going to be opening their eyes under water.” She also warned about the visual elements of concussions. “If a concussion is suspected, it is important that the child receive a vision test.”

Germs in the eyes –  Eyes have certainly benefitted from the encouragement of hand washing since rubbing your eyes with dirty hands can be detrimental, but Dr. Zolman said to be careful with hand sanitizer. “We have seen some patients come in with infections due to getting hand sanitizer in their eyes.”

For a free examination of your baby’s eyes between 6 to 12 months old, check out the InfantSEE program for a provider near you. For more information on Draisin Vision Group, visit