The Vision Pro won’t destroy your eyes, but it may get eye drops

We’ve all heard that screens are not good for your eyes. So it might not be surprising to hear that many Vision Pro users have complained about eye strain. (Finally, the headphones do use two 4K displays, one for each eyeball.) However, these are common complaints with general VR use and experts say it’s not something to panic about.

“Despite what many people think, sitting too close to the TV is not harmful to the eyes. Screens ruining your eyes is another myth,” says Dr. Arvind Saini, clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

If you look at VR subreddits, and not just Apple Vision Pro, that can be hard to believe. You will often encounter people who complain that their eyes “really hurt,” are irritated, or even bloodshot. However, Saini says these are all temporary symptoms likely caused by people not blinking enough while using the devices. As for symptoms like dizziness and nausea, Saini says this is because when you view a moving image, it sends the same signals to your brain as if you were actually moving, even if you are standing still.

Eye strain can also be caused by something called the vergence-accommodation conflict. When you look at an object in the real world, the focal point and physical distance to that object are the same. In VR, depth is simulated, so the distance from your eye to the physical screen and what you focus on in the virtual world may not match. This causes your eye muscles to become tired.

“While these symptoms can sometimes be uncomfortable, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that digital screens, including a device such as VR devices, are harmful to eye health.”

But what about some of the more alarming VR headset claims about redness and bleeding in the eye? Saini says that these too are not dangerous for your eyesight. These are called subconjunctival hemorrhages and although they look scary, they are generally harmless and heal on their own. They can be caused by rapid pressure changes (i.e. sneezing or coughing), which can cause the capillaries in your eyes to burst, or by eye trauma.

“There is no scientific evidence to suggest that digital displays, including a tool like VR devices, are harmful to eye health.”

“Screen use or VR use itself cannot cause subconjunctival hemorrhage,” says Saini. However, he says VR (or other screen use) can indirectly cause blood vessels to burst if you constantly rub your eyes to address screen-related dry eye.

Screens – VR or otherwise – aren’t going anywhere. In any case, big tech seems to be increasingly convinced that AR is the future. Therefore, the eye pain they cause cannot be ignored. So VR companies have taken a relatively conservative approach to advising on how people use their devices.

For example, most VR headset manufacturers warn that their devices are not for children under 13. This is partly because they are not designed for smaller bodies and also because children’s eyes are still developing. For example, Meta’s Quest’s compliance page notes that “children’s bodies are often less developed, so their eyes, neck, back, and strength may not yet allow them to use Meta Quest comfortably or safely.” This is despite the fact that there is not yet conclusive evidence, and not enough research has been done, to say whether the use of the headset has a negative effect on children’s vision.

But even if your overall vision isn’t at stake, it doesn’t change the fact that VR can hurt your eyes. However, there are things you can do to alleviate this. A lot of it is common sense. Apple’s Vision Pro support page recommends sitting quietly in the device and taking a break every 20-30 minutes when you get started. It also emphasizes getting the best possible fit. Meta’s compliance page says the same, adding that experts say children should be limited to two hours a day. Saini recommends following the 20-20-20 method. Every 20 minutes you should take a 20 second break and look 20 feet into the distance. And if all else fails, you can always invest in eye drops.

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