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While there's not enough evidence to suggest that VR headset use permanently deteriorates eyesight, this software developer's experience after using them for 10,000 hours in 4 years should be threaded carefully.
Danny Bittman, a software developer, has tweeted about how he has been prescribed glasses for the first time by a doctor who is convinced VR headsets were the ones to blame for his eye convergence problem, BBC reports.
Just had my 1st eye doctor visit in 3 years. Now I’m very worried about my future VR use. I have a new eye convergence problem that acts like dyslexia. The doc, a headset owner, is convinced my VR use caused this. He said “these are glasses we usually prescribe to 40 year olds”.— Danny Bittman (@DannyBittman) June 9, 2020
Bittman wrote, "Just had my first eye doctor visit in three years. Now I'm very worried about my future VR use. He said 'these glasses we usually prescribe to 40-year-olds.'"
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To give a bit of context, Danny Bittman is an artist for Color Space, a virtual reality coloring book. He states that, by his own estimates, he has used VR headsets for close to 10,000 hours since 2016. His issue is due to "prolonged use," since he often uses VR for six hours a day, in 30-minute sessions.
An eye convergence problem that acts like dyslexia
The developer explained his symptoms in detail in other tweets, "My eyes jump when I read things like a screen or books. I've always had a small level of this but it's greatly intensified now. It's also linked to headaches and vertigo."
He continued by saying his new glasses will correct the issue, "They’re the kind that have slits with different lenses for up close and far away. But, that doesn’t change the fact that my eyes degraded dramatically in the last 3 years."
Also, he had a valid point. Since he is "one of about 100 people who have been in a headset close to 10 thousand hours since 2016, now would be the time to figure out if it’s [VR damaging eyesight] true. Totally needs further study though."
Further research is needed
As of now, we currently don't have any reliable evidence that VR headsets can cause permanent deterioration in eyesight.
Ceri Smith-Jaynes, from the Association of Optometrists, stated, "There have been some studies looking into the effects of short-term use of VR headsets only; these did not reveal a deterioration in eyesight. However, some people do suffer from temporary symptoms such as nausea, dry, irritable eyes, headache, or eyestrain. "
How should you be using VR headsets?
She also gave some advice about the correct usage, "If you spend all day in VR without a break, you'll need time to readjust to the light and the different visual environment of the real world. I would suggest taking a five-to-ten minute break each hour, using that time to move about, blink and look out of a window, or take a short walk."
While Bittman's case is a singular one, he is one of those rare people who have used VR headsets for an extended time in the past years. Since they are not that widespread yet, this could point towards the possible problems that may come up in the future. Further research is definitely needed.