VR HMD (virtual reality head-mounted display) has gained popularity as a fun and immersive way to play games. Brands like Oculus Rift, Valve and HTC create engaging, virtual worlds through their headsets. Brands like Google are also getting in on the action with their affordable cardboard version. Their cardboard headset has space that allows you to attach your smartphone for a quick and easy VR experience. People have complained of having headaches, dizziness and nausea after using these headsets. Can this be damaging for the eyes? Eye health specialists at Feel Good Contacts, the UK’s leading contact lens retailer and one stop shop for glasses, sunglasses and eye care (learn more), are here to address all your queries in relation to VR and its effects on your vision.

What are the Long-Term Effects of VR on your Vision?

What are the side effects of VR?

VR can cause side effects such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Motion sickness
  • Nausea
  • Eyestrain
  • Dry eyes
  • Disorientation 

Users can feel disorientated after using VR are because there is a disconnect. This is because the player’s eyes tell them they are walking when they are still. There’s also a risk of personal injury as you lose your sense of spatial awareness. People have broken bones, strained muscles and had concussions due to VR. VR sickness is a term that VR developers have adopted to describe the motion sickness that some players encounter; these symptoms are usually temporary.

Research from The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) – part of the United States National Library of Medicine – shows “…wearing a VR HMD creates a dissociation between convergence and accommodative demands, which may contribute to visual discomfort”. Prolonged use of VR can cause eye strain, which is listed as a possible side-effect of the Oculus VR headset. This is not surprising when you consider that using virtual reality (VR) headsets requires the same concentration level as staring at a phone or laptop screen. When we look at these screens, we usually concentrate on what we are reading/watching, which causes us to blink less. Less blinking creates dry and tired eyes.

How Long should you Stay in VR?

You should take breaks from VR for 10 – 15 minutes after 30 minutes or more extended periods of use. Just as it’s important to take breaks from your digital screens to give your eyes a rest, it’s also recommended to take breaks during long sessions of VR. You can walk around and re-adjust to the real world during these breaks.

Can u go Blind From VR?

No, VR cannot make you go blind. Although VR can cause temporary eye strain, these symptoms can be eased when you spend periods of time away from the device. To minimise symptoms, you can try to soothe irritated and strained eyes with some eye drops.

Can VR damage your eyes permanently?

VR may cause eye problems such as eye strain, but these are short term symptoms. More research into the long-term effects of VR on our eyes is needed. However, it seems the advice is to enjoy VR headsets but not over-use them. The American Academy of Ophthalmology says, “Although there are no long-term studies, ophthalmologists agree there is no reason to be concerned that VR headsets will damage eye development, health or function”. General advice is also given on individual products with warnings and instructions, which should always be read before use.

iLounge author Lucy Bennett

Lucy Bennett is a Contributing Editor at iLounge. She has been writing about Apple and technology for over six years. Prior to joining iLounge, Lucy worked as a writer for several online publications.