3-D Or Not 3-D


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By Stephen Cohen, O.D. – 

Technology changes so fast that what was new last year, can be passé today. While these mind-boggling advances occur at breakneck speeds, we can’t always anticipate the unintended consequences that come with the advances. Case in point is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (surgery for which I am now recovering as I awkwardly attempt to type out this message), which has become an unanticipated consequence of prolonged, repetitive computer use. The recent explosion in 3-D technology is showing signs of being a similar example.

Many movies are now being released in 3-D as well as 2-D technology. What many don’t realize though, is that our ability to appreciate the 3-D effect is contingent upon our eyes ability to see the two images with equal clarity and positioning in order to merge them into one three-dimensional image.

A recent peer-reviewed study published in Optometry and Vision Science showed that for about 20 percent of study participants, 3-D images (movies, home TV, video games) can lead to blurred or double vision, dizziness, disorientation, motion sickness and nausea. Interestingly, younger study participants were more symptomatic than older study participants.

Here are some tips. If your child complains while watching a 3-D movie or while using a 3-D device, schedule an eye exam to see if there is an issue with how their eyes are working as a team. Such a problem can not only affect movie-going, but can create problems with reading and with sports. When you go to a 3-D movie, studies suggest that sitting in the center and/or closer to the screen can increase symptom, while sitting at an angle to the screen may help to decrease symptoms.

For the future, there is hope. Technology in 3-D filming, projecting and 3-D movie glasses is being developed to address this mismatch between how our eyes focus and how they work together as a team – the issue that appears to be the primary cause of these symptoms.

Until then, pay attention to your symptoms. If it’s an issue for you, try going “old school” for now and see the movie in 2-D. A good movie is a good movie in either form. Doing so can help relieve you of 3-D induced headaches, both in the wallet as well as above the shoulders.

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