Eyestrain, headaches caused by new 3D content

By John L Henahan
OD, FAAO

In discussing the emerging problem of eyestrain with 3D movies and TV, MIT’s Technology Review (4/5, Grifantini) reports, “The success of 3D movies has been accompanied by complaints from some viewers of headaches and eyestrain.”

Now, “some experts are calling for more research into the possibility of eyestrain associated with 3D viewing, particularly on smaller screens that are closer to the viewer.” Martin Banks, PhD, an associate professor of optometry at the University of California-Berkeley, explained that “artificial 3D causes ‘vergence-accommodation conflict,’…because viewers must focus at one distance (where light is emitting from the screen), but point the eyes at another distance (wherever the 3D object appears to be in space),” which could result in eyestrain and headaches.

“While this technology is exciting for the new experiences it can bring, many people will not be able enjoy it”, according to Dr. Henahan of Spectrum Eyecare in Peachtree City. He continued, “For patients with an eye turn or lazy eye, enjoying 3D television and movies is out of the question, but even more subtle vision problems can result in problems like eyestrain, headaches and fatigue.”

As this technology becomes more prevalent, questions remain about how the industry will assist those who cannot enjoy 3D. This is not a trivial question with millions of people effected. As more 3D content becomes available, especially with the soon to be released Nintendo DS 3D, parents and optometrists will likely have to develop new strategies for assisting patients with their binocular vision function.

At Spectrum Eyecare, Dr. Henahan uses a software based system to analyze patients with eyestrain and headaches to determine the underlying cause of the problem. He then may prescribe eye glasses and/or a regimen of computer guided eye exercises to strengthen the eyes and allow patients to enjoy 3D technology more. This regimen also allows for more efficient reading, and better performance in sports that put a premium on eye-hand coordination.

If you or someone you know suffers from eyestrain and headaches when viewing 3D content or reading, contact us for an appointment at SpecEye.com or by calling 770-487-0667. We take the time to determine the underlying cause and work to resolve the problem, whether that is with glasses or specialized eye exercises.

John L Henahan, OD, FAAO has practiced since 1991 and is the owner of Spectrum Eyecare in Peachtree City, which is also where he lives with his wife and two children, Owen and Liam.

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