3-D movies have come a long way since the days of 1950’s classics like the House of Wax and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. With blockbuster 3-D movies like Avatar breaking records and the popularity of 3-D gaming, TV networks and TV sets on the rise, it seems that three-dimensional viewing is here to stay, but is it good for your or your children’s eyes?

No evidence of harmful effects

You may have read the warnings on your 3-D game or TV, “Warning: Children and teenagers may be more susceptible to health issues associated with viewing in 3D…etc.” However, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, there are currently no conclusive studies on the short- and/or long-term effects of 3-D viewing on visual development or eye health in children.

3-D viewing challenges

However, even though there is no current evidence of long-term effects, some people experience discomfort when watching stereoscopic images. The process of the eyes converging to see images in front of or beyond the screen can create eyestrain and headaches. Sitting at a greater distance from the screen can help alleviate this problem. Viewers with visual motion hypersensitivity (VHM), which can cause motion sickness and vergence-accommodation confilict, may experience dizziness and nausea from 3-D viewing. Those with amblyopia (an imbalance in visual strength between both eyes) or strabismus (misalighned eyes) may have difficulty seeing 3-D images. There is also a small population of people who lack binocular vision and therefore can’t see 3-D images at all.

3-D as vision test

This potential of discomfort has an upside as the ability to perceive depth in 3-D can be a highly sensitive test of a range of vision health indicators. For the 1 in 4 children suffering from underlying vision issues and the 3 to 9 million people with binocular vision problems, viewing 3-D TV and movies can help identify problems and thereby lead to treatments.

Educational benefits

In addition to the benefit of exposing underlying vision issues, 3-D viewing can have educational benefits as well. For instance, studies have shown teaching in 3-D can result in significant improvement in comprehension and retention over traditional presentations. To learn more about 3D in the classroom, read this public health report by the American Optometric Association (AOA) on the subject.

If you or your child experience any issues with 3-D viewing, be sure to make an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam with your eye care professional. Turns out that 3-D blockbuster you just saw may lead to improving your vision and eye health!

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