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

Consumer Reports says no evidence 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 video?

  • 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 standard 3D movies, so more frequent breaks are recommended.
  • Young children. Nintendo 3D warns against use for children under 6 because of potential 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. The article What are the Dangers of 3D Glasses explains that these individuals may risk a seizure or stroke due to the bright, flashing light portrayed in a 3D movie.

While no research supports permanent damage specifically from viewing 3D, remember that 3D glasses manipulate the eyes to see images on the screen in 3D, which can cause eye strain, headaches, blurred vision, disorientation, and nausea.

Eye Strain is 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 the eyes have to constantly adjust to changes in brightness and contrast.

Prolonged 3D viewing increases eye strain, so use the following guidelines to ease that strain. Note that many of these tips also apply to prolonged viewing of any other type of screen (computer, regular television, etc.).

Tips to reduce eye strain during 3D video viewing

  • Consider watching 3D at the theater when possible. Viewing theater 3D is not as bad for your eyes, probably because of the audience’s fixed position and 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 have the most significant changes in depth.
  • Take regular breaks. Allow your eyes time to relax. Especially when you first start watching 3D videos. It takes time for your eyes to adjust to 3D viewing.
  • Make adjustments. Lower the contrast & brightness on ALL TVs, so the TV won’t affect the room’s brightness, which means the eyes have less adapting.
  • Use good habits for reducing eye strain in general. Understand the importance of Preventing & Reducing Eye Strain and Managing Electronic Display Eye Strain.
  • Consider viewing distance. 3D University.net says to, Remember that viewing distance should be 3x or more than the screen’s height.
  • 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 your eyes by looking away occasionally during your 3D viewing time.
  • Consider the 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. But, again, no evidence suggests that 3D viewing causes these long-term problems.

Moderation is the key for 3D viewing – and for ANY screen viewing

To learn more about 3D viewing and eye health, check out the 3D Vision and Eye Health FAQ by the American Optometric Association.