3D and Vision Health

3D TV

While 3D technology has been around for over a decade,  it’s only made its way into the home fairly recently. Along with it comes concern over vision health, especially for young viewers. But is that concern justifiable?

Consumer Reports says no evidence currently supports the concern that prolonged or frequent viewing of 3D content could cause eye problems for most users. But, there are cautions involving specific groups of individuals.

Who Should be Cautious When Viewing 3D?

  • Individuals using handheld 3D devices. In a Consumer Reports article, the American Optometric Association says that “due to closer viewing distance, handheld 3D devices actually place higher demands on the eyes than do movies, so more frequent breaks are recommended.”
  • Young children. Nintendo 3D warns against use for children under 6 because of possibly causing vision damage in developing eyes, but experts say children over the age of 3 can view 3D safely.
  • The elderly. Aging eyes naturally become increasingly sensitive to glare and require higher contrast than younger eyes.
  • Children & adults with a family history of epilepsy.  “What are the Dangers of 3D Glassesexplains that these individuals may be at risk of a seizure or stroke due to the bright, flashing light portrayed in a 3D environment.

While no research exists supporting permanent damage specifically from viewing 3D, keep in mind that 3D glasses do manipulate eyes to see images on the screen as 3D, and this can cause eye strain, headaches, blurred vision, disorientation and nausea.

Eye Strain NOT a Problem Unique to 3D Viewing

In fact, HealthGuidance says that “watching any TV can cause some problems with eye strain and the reason for this is that eyes have to constantly adjust to changes in brightness and contrast.”

Prolonged 3D viewing as well as increased strain during the “training period” eyes go through when you first begin watching 3D on a regular basis DO cause eye strain, so be sure to use the following guidelines to ease that strain.

Note that many of these tips also apply to prolonged viewing any other type of screen (computer, regular television, etc.) as well.

  • Consider watching 3D at the theater when possible. Viewing theater 3D is not as bad for your eyes probably because of the fixed position of the audience along with the larger screen size.
  • Know what you’re watching. HealthGuidance says, “Things converted from 2D to 3D are often worse because they were never designed to be viewed in 3D and so have the biggest changes in depth.”
  • Take regular breaks. Allow eyes time to relax, especially when first start watching 3D to allow your eyes to be “trained” to view 3D.
  • Make adjustments. Lower the contrast & brightness on ALL TVs, so the TV won’t affect the brightness of the entire room, which means eyes have less adapting to do.
  • Use good habits for reducing eye strain in general. Understand the importance of Preventing & Reducing Eye Strain as well as Managing Electronic Display Eye Strain.
  • Consider viewing distance. 3D University.net says to, “Remember that viewing distance should be 3x or more the height of the screen.”
  • Sit with eyes level with the screen.
  • Have overall soft lighting in the room when watching 3D TV.
  • Turn off fluorescent lighting.
  • Block sources of direct sunlight before watching in 3D mode.
  • Rest eyes by looking away occasionally during your 3D viewing time.
  • Consider placement of your TV set for optimal lighting conditions.

Also, remember that watery eyes or any visual discomfort on a long-term basis while watching 3D or at any other time should be addressed with your physician since people who have problems with 3D viewing may have underlying issues caused by an undiagnosed eye problem. Again, no evidence suggests 3D viewing causes these long-term problems.

The key for 3D viewing – and really for ANY screen viewing – is moderation. To find out more about 3D viewing and eye health, check out the 3D Vision and Eye Health FAQ provided by the American Optometric Association.