The Eyes Have It


Eye experts don’t want you to take your ability to read this text — with or without squinting — for granted. Here are their biggest tips on how to protect your peepers.

Myth: Eyesight mostly stays consistent with age.

Truth: Eyesight changes over time and with activity. 

When it comes to children, kids’ eyes mature structurally by age 8 or 9. Along with other developmental milestones, it’s important to monitor how kids are doing identifying shapes, letters and symbols. Children learn or interpret better if their vision is working at its maximum potential. Get your kids' eyes checked regularly.

By your 30s, you’ll want routine eye exams every two to three years, whether or not you use corrective lenses. By age 45, these exams should be annual due to ocular health issues and presbyopia.

Activity, too, impacts your sight. Dr. Michael Campbell, who has been a practicing optometrist in Bluffton and on Hilton Head Island for the past 33 years, notes that as people do more and more “close work” and computer work, or use screens in the dark, their eyesight responds, often with increased nearsightedness. Protect your eyes by keeping your screens further away and avoid screen use in the dark or late at night. 

The 20-20-20 rule is also a useful tool when doing computer or screen work: every 20 minutes, look up and focus on an object at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Eye doctors are seeing an increase in myopia and nearsightedness in our youth.

Myth: Only treat your eyes when you’re having issues. 

Truth: Your eyes are a lot like the family car: You rely on them to keep you safe, but generally don’t pay attention unless things go wrong. 

Dr. Matthew Nutaitis, professor and director of residency programs at Medical University of South Carolina’s Storm Eye Institute, notes that “eye problems start before symptoms do. Patients think that if they see OK and don’t hurt, they don’t need eye care.” Unfortunately, by the time you notice pain, the damage is done — which means regular care is critical. 

Myth: Beware of glasses, they are a slippery slope. 

Truth: Eyesight doesn’t get worse just because you’re wearing the proper prescription. 

“Glasses aren’t addictive. Prescription eyewear is treating your eyesight to make it functional,” Campbell said. “You are raising the bar of how well you expect to see, not weakening your eyes.” 

If you sense vision changes, it’s a cue to call the eye doctor. 

YOUR VISION2Myth: Eat your carrots and you won’t have to worry about your eyes. 

Truth: Carrots are delicious, but they won’t protect your vision. 

The impact of foods like carrots on your eyesight is minimal. Both Campbell and Nutaitis agree that people should pay less attention to diet and more to protecting their eyes from injury. This means wearing the appropriate safety gear for different activites, whether home renovations, working with chemicals or playing racquetball, tennis or pickleball. 

Myth: All eye exams and eye professionals do the same job. 

Fact: Optometrists and ophthalmologists have different training and scopes of practice. 

Nutaitis and Campbell both have extensive training and expertise, but they do not have the same job. Optometrists generally specialize in vision correction and disease problems. Ophthalmologists specialize in eye structures, diseases and abnormalities, and are trained surgeons. Chances are, you’ll need both kinds of eye specialists in your health care team over the years.