Yay or Nay on 3D movies?

The other day, I was standing in line at the grocery store waiting impatiently for the cashier to ring me up. But he was caught up in an animated conversation with the customer in front of me about pulling all-nighters, buying tickets, and watching the “entire series.”  And then I figured it out, they were Star Wars fanatics discussing the next movie coming out in a little over a week. I had to chuckle because I have to admit, I’m looking forward to it too and have planned to watch all 6 movies with the family before we head out to see it. So I guess you can call me a Star Wars fan too, just not as enthusiastic as the two guys in front of me at Trader Joe’s.

A question that will inevitably come up is, “Should we watch it in 3D?” How can you not, right? But some of us experience eye fatigue when watching 3D. It’s not uncommon, in fact, a good majority of my patients mention that their eyes tire when watching 3D movies.

What causes 3D eye fatigue?

Movies that are 3D requires the use of special glasses which splits the image between two eyes. One eye sees one image, the other eye sees another image shifted horizontally. Eye muscles turn the eyes inwardly to converge the two images, thereby creating a 3D image that appears to float closer to you from the screen. The more three dimensional an image is, the closer it appears, causing the eyes to converge more. After repeatedly shifting the eyes inward and outward while maintaining focus for extended periods of time, the eyes will tire. In patients who have a reduced ability to turn the eyes inward and outward quickly, their eye fatigue may be greater and occur sooner.

51qnL90HO6L._SY300_Who should see a 3D movie?

Of course, there are those people who just don’t see the difference between a 3D movie and a standard 2D movie. To appreciate the three dimensional aspect, one needs to have binocular vision, the ability to see out of each eye simultaneously and for the brain to merge the two images. If there is loss of vision in one eye, a higher prescription in one eye, a lazy eye, or an eye turn, then one may lack binocular vision. In this case, a person would view the image out of their stronger eye and the brain “shuts off” the other eye. There would be no need for convergence or merging of two images. Essentially, this person is watching the movie out of one eye, and really shouldn’t waste the extra dollars on a 3D movie.

What does all this mean to you? Sometimes symptoms with watching 3D or an inability to see 3D may indicate a binocular vision problem that requires intervention. This is particularly important in children whose eyes are still developing and highly responsive to treatment. Visit your optometrist if you find that you or your children have difficulty viewing 3D movies.

Otherwise, see you at the movies, I will.

~Cindy P. Wang, OD, FAAO
California Optometric Association
http://www.eyehelp.org
http://www.coavision.org

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