Are VR headsets safe for your eyes?

Are VR headsets safe for your eyes?

If you’ve been spending more time inside lately, you are not alone. With many trying to not only optimize their work-from-home spaces to be ergonomically sound, the question of leisure activities and their effects on our bodies also comes into play. Virtual reality (VR) headsets have been around for decades but according to a survey done in the U.S., 71 percent of Americans used VR more in 2020 during the pandemic, than previous years. It makes sense: wanting to immerse yourself in a different world or space while in reality, you are following stay-at-home orders, sounds appealing. But does VR pose a risk to our eyes or vision?

How does VR work?

Virtual reality is so convincing because it presents a realistic, 3D world to us, usually through a headset that is worn like a pair of goggles. Either two separate video feeds are sent to the display or each eye will see a different display. Then, lenses placed between your eyes and the video create the 3D images. Add in an ideal frame rate of 60 frames per second and head-tracking technology like a gyroscope, and you have yourself an immersive and very realistic experience.

You can find just about anything on the market these days in terms of VR experiences: exercise videos, underwater journeys, and even rollercoasters! And although some of these may seem so real that you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, or even nauseated (cybersickness is a thing!), have you ever wondered if VR can have an effect on your eyes?

Does VR affect the eyes or vision?

Although virtual reality allows us to see different places and objects than what is real, it does not permanently change our vision or pose a real threat to eye health.

However, moderation is key. Increased screen time, including with VR headsets, has been linked to digital eye strain because we blink about half as much as we should when looking at screens. Over time, this can cause a variety of symptoms like dry and fatigued eyes. As we continue to find more ways to entertain ourselves while both working and living at home, it would be good to remember to balance screen time with non-digital activities. It’s also important to keep the 20-20-20 rule in mind: every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

Although VR has not been shown to cause any vision problems, people with amblyopia (“lazy eye”) or strabismus (“wandering eye”) may not be able to experience the full effects of the 3D imagery or videos. Because of this, people with these conditions who do try to use VR headsets may experience eye fatigue faster than others, as their eyes try to accommodate for lack of depth perception.

Lastly, while some VR headsets are large enough to accommodate a pair of glasses (and not all are), it’s often uncomfortable for a longer period of use. In order to see the VR experience properly, if you have a refractive error like myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), or astigmatism, you will need to wear whatever corrective lenses you do in your everyday life. If you do have a refractive error and are looking to get rid of your glasses and contacts, that’s where LASIK MD comes in! Book your free, no-obligation consultation to see how we can help.