3D movie viewing is uncomfortable for 3-9 million Americans

by Dr. Janet

in Convergence insufficiency,Eyestrain

The Wall Street Journal reports that Hollywood studios and TV manufacturers are banking on 3-D to be the next big thing in entertainment. But for people with certain eye problems, the idea of a 3-D movie isn’t much fun at all.

Associated Press. People wear 3-D glasses to watch “Avatar” at the Seoul Digital Forum in South Korea.

Between three million and nine million people in the U.S. have vision problems that would prevent them from watching 3-D movies and TV shows, even though they can see two-dimensional images, according to the American Optometric Association.

Normally, each eye views the world from a slightly different perspective, and when the brain puts the two images together, the person gets a sense of three dimensions. Movies using 3-D technology mimic this effect on a two-dimensional screen by using glasses to put one image in one eye and another, somewhat different, image in the other eye. But people who can’t coordinate their eyes well or focus appropriately can be unable to see the 3-D effects at all, said Dominick Maino, professor of pediatrics and binocular vision at the Illinois College of Optometry.

Even people with good vision could experience discomfort while watching because of the way 3-D technology works, said Lisa Park, a clinical assistant professor with the Department of Ophthamology at NYU’s Langone Medical Center. “You’re trying to force the eyes to look at two images and trying to trick the brain into thinking that the images are actually three-dimensional” — a situation that is bound to cause strain in some people, she said.

People with mild vision problems may feel discomfort or nausea and “will just close an eye through the whole movie” because of it, or they may experience dizziness or headaches but not associate them with their vision, Dr. Maino said.

Shannon Wyatt, a certified athletic trainer in Oak Park, Ill., said she felt nauseated after watching “Avatar” but chalked it up to low blood sugar until talking with Dr. Maino. “I saw the movie ‘Up,’ and I don’t think that bothered me a whole lot,” she said. “‘A Christmas Carol’ bothered me, but ‘Avatar’ was the worst.” She has since been undergoing therapy for what is known as a convergence disorder, in which the eyes are not able to turn toward each other adequately.

The American Optometric Association recommends that people see an eye doctor and be evaluated for binocular-vision dysfunction if they experience headaches, nausea or dizziness after watching 3-D programming.

Dr. Park said many people who are uncomfortable watching 3-D movies should avoid watching them, especially for long periods of time.

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