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Is Virtual Reality Bad for Your Eyes?

is vr bad for your eyes

Virtual reality (VR) headsets are becoming increasingly popular for gaming, entertainment, and even workplace applications. However, some people are concerned that prolonged VR use could be detrimental to eye health. In this post, we’ll explore what the current research says about how VR affects vision.

Many of us remember our mothers scolding us for sitting too close to the TV or computer screen. They worried it would ruin our eyesight. However, research shows sitting close to screens does not actually damage eyes or cause vision problems in the long-term [1][2][3][4][6].

Sitting very close to a screen can contribute to temporary eye fatigue and strain, especially in children who can focus up close without effort [2][3]. It may also be a sign of underlying nearsightedness if done frequently [3][4][6]. But there is no evidence this habit causes permanent harm. Screens also do not emit harmful radiation that can hurt eyes [5].

a child sitting close to the tv screen

Flat Screens vs. VR

There are a few key differences between viewing regular screens versus VR headsets:

  • Focusing Distance - TVs and monitors have varying distances that viewers focus on. VR headsets have a fixed focal distance that can cause eye strain over time [7].
  • Field of View - VR headsets fill your peripheral vision for a fully immersive experience. TVs and monitors take up a small portion of your field of view in comparison.
  • 3D Environment - VR headsets use stereoscopic 3D to mimic real depth. TVs and monitors are flat 2D screens.

Some people report more eye strain and vision changes after using VR compared to traditional screens. But there is no evidence either causes permanent damage with moderate use [8].

children with VR headsets on

What the Research Shows

A number of studies have looked at whether VR causes vision problems like nearsightedness, eye strain or dry eyes. The consensus so far is that VR does not seem to pose any threat to long-term eye health [2][7][12].

For example, a 2018 study [13] tested the impact of head-mounted VR displays on myopia progression and axial elongation in children. Axial elongation refers to the lengthening of the eye which contributes to nearsightedness. The study found no significant difference in myopia progression or axial length between the control and VR groups after 2 years.

However, VR can cause temporary discomforts like dry or watery eyes, eye fatigue, headaches, and nausea after prolonged use [14][15]. These effects are likely due to the fixed focal distance and vergence-accommodation conflict created by most VR headsets.

Vergence refers to how your eyes converge or diverge to focus on objects, while accommodation refers to how the lenses in your eyes change shape to focus [16]. The conflict between vergence and accommodation in VR can strain the eyes [7].

an Ophthalmologist examining a person that has a VR headset on

Can Blue Light from VR Headsets Cause Eye Strain?

The screens used in virtual reality (VR) headsets emit blue light, similar to other digital devices like phones and computers. There is some concern that overexposure to blue light from VR can contribute to digital eye strain over time[17][18].

  • Blue light can potentially disrupt circadian rhythms and melatonin production, affecting sleep[19]. Using VR before bedtime may make it harder to fall asleep.
  • Prolonged exposure to blue light is linked to eye fatigue and headaches[20][21]. VR sessions over 1 hour may cause temporary eye strain.

Additional accessories like VR Wave's prescription lens inserts can provide blue light filtering for further eye protection in VR[22].

Moderating VR usage and taking breaks can minimize eye strain regardless of blue light. But for those concerned about blue light, enabling headset filters or using blue light blocking lenses can provide extra precaution.

VR Wave offers innovative prescription lenses precisely designed for various VR headsets. Each lens is tailored to your exact prescription with thin, lightweight materials that won't scratch or touch the headset lenses. Getting lenses made specifically for your eyes and headset can take VR visuals to the next level. Check out our products today to order your customized pair!

Tips for Healthy VR Use

Most experts agree that VR is safe in moderation. Here are some tips for protecting your eyes during VR play:

  • Take frequent breaks by looking 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This helps refresh your eyes.
  • Use eye drops to keep your eyes lubricated if they feel dry.
  • Adjust the headset fit and IPD (interpupillary distance) for optimal clarity.
  • Make sure games are rendered at 60fps or higher for less strain.
  • Avoid VR if you’re very tired, intoxicated, or get motion sick easily.
  • Consider using prescription lenses with integrated blue light filtering like those from VR Wave. Their lenses can help block blue light that contributes to digital eye strain.
  • VR Wave lenses also have an anti-glare coating to reduce distracting reflections and glare that can cause fatigue.

someone adjusting the lenses of their VR headset

The Bottom Line

Research to date suggests that occasional, moderate use of VR is unlikely to cause permanent damage or long-term issues with eye health or vision in most people. However, some temporary symptoms like eye strain, headaches, nausea, and changes in vision after use are common.

To minimize eye discomfort, be sure to take regular breaks during longer VR sessions. Follow the manufacturer's guidelines for device settings and fit. Use artificial tears or eyedrops to keep your eyes lubricated. Adjust ambient lighting, position, and IPD settings for maximum comfort.

VR Wave offers custom prescription lenses specifically designed for VR headsets. Their lenses feature an anti-glare coating that can help reduce eye fatigue by minimizing distracting reflections and glare. This allows for more comfortable, extended play in VR.

Overall, virtual reality is an exciting new technology that can transport us to amazing simulated worlds. With responsible use and attention to any vision symptoms, both kids and adults can safely enjoy the immersive experience of VR without compromising long-term eye health. But as with any new technology, ongoing research on the ocular impacts of extended exposure is still needed.


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Citations:

[1] https://news.uthscsa.edu/myth-or-fact-can-sitting-too-close-to-the-tv-hurt-your-eyes-will-wearing-glasses-weaken-your-eyes-test-your-knowledge/

[2] https://www.aao.org/eye-health/ask-ophthalmologist-q/can-close-tv-viewing-damage-eyes

[3] https://www.thechildren.com/health-info/conditions-and-illnesses/sitting-too-close-television-bad-eyes

[4] https://www.willvision.com/how-close-is-too-close-to-the-tv/

[5] https://theopticalshoppetn.com/is-sitting-too-close-to-the-tv-really-bad-for-your-eyes/

[6] https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/Patients-Families/Health-Library/HealthDocNew/Vision-Facts-and-Myths

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6673397/

[8] https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-virtual-reality-headsets-damage-your-eyes-2019060416761

[9] https://myeyewellness.com/is-vr-bad-for-your-eyes/

[10] https://www.allaboutvision.com/computer-vision-syndrome/digital-eye-strain/vr-damage-eyes/

[11] https://www.nvisioncenters.com/education/vr-and-eye-strain/

[12] https://iovs.arvojournals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2761248

[13] https://iovs.arvojournals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2691356

[14] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0741521417303284

[15] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaophthalmology/fullarticle/2767209

[16] https://www.aoa.org/healthy-eyes/eye-and-vision-conditions/accommodative-infacility?sso=y

[17] https://www.lumenoptometric.com/blog/eye-care/vr-headsets-are-they-bad-for-the-eyes/

[18] https://youtube.com/watch?v=sGD800PSSY4

[19] https://www.vr-wave.store/products/oculus-quest-prescription-lenses-new

[20] https://www.vr-wave.store/pages/blue-light-filters

[21] https://youtube.com/watch?v=CxTAuPi10oY

[22] https://www.reddit.com/r/OculusQuest/comments/i7xisn/do_you_get_more_light_glare_with_prescription/

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