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Is Virtual Reality (VR) Bad for Your Eyes?

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A man wearing a yellow shirt using a VR headset.

Virtual reality (VR) technology has been around for quite some time, but it has only recently become more accessible and popular among consumers. Kids and adults alike are playing video games and watching immersive videos. With that being said, there are still some concerns and questions around the safety of virtual reality for families, with one of the most common being: Is virtual reality bad for your eyes?

Virtual reality headsets don’t cause direct damage to your eyes, though they can cause eye fatigue and other symptoms if not used in moderation, and young children may be more susceptible. There is some concern that VR can increase children’s risk of developing myopia, but that risk is shared with other digital screens.

Why Do People Think VR is Harmful?

The idea that Virtual Reality (VR) is bad for your eyes stems from the fact that the technology involves placing a screen very close to your eyes for an extended period. You’ve likely heard it before, “Don’t stand too close to the TV.” But that doesn’t mean that the proximity to the screen is harmful. It’s no different than staring at a computer or phone screen; it’s just that VR goggles cover the rest of the world and make us feel like we’re in another world.

There’s currently no evidence using VR will damage your eyes or vision. However, that’s not to say it can’t affect your eyes in the short term, especially after extended use.

VR & Digital Eye Strain

Digital eye strain, also known as computer vision syndrome, is a condition that occurs when you spend prolonged periods staring at digital screens. This includes computers, tablets, smartphones, televisions, and, of course, VR headsets.

Digital eye strain can cause a range of symptoms, including:

  • Eye fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry eyes
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Watery eyes
  • Eye irritation
  • Red eyes
  • Double vision

Many of these symptoms occur because we simply blink less while viewing a screen. Usually, we blink 15-20 times a minute, but staring at a digital screen can reduce this rate by 66%!

Experts recommend avoiding digital eye strain by placing your screen greater than an arm’s length away. Clearly, VR headsets are much closer than this, making regular breaks even more important. Remember to take off the headset every 20 minutes to rest your eyes.


Because VR replicates motion, some people may experience “cybersickness,” a form of motion sickness. Motion sickness occurs when your senses send conflicting information to your brain. Cybersickness is specifically caused by your eyes perceiving movement while your body knows it’s sitting still, and it could even happen simply by scrolling through a webpage.

The symptoms of motion sickness, cybersickness, and VR sickness are remarkably similar, with only the cause setting them apart. Common symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Eye strain
  • Headaches

This disorientation is usually temporary. The most important step to relief is orienting yourself in your space. Taking a screen break to focus on a steady object can help, and some people find success by nibbling on a saltine cracker or drinking water.

Children & VR

A growing concern with children’s eyesight is the increasing prevalence of myopia or nearsightedness. This common condition can make it difficult to see distant objects, and some research estimates as much as 50% of the population could have myopia by 2050.

Myopia appears to have an environmental component, and there’s reasonable concern that spending too long viewing things up close, such as with VR, could increase children’s risk of developing myopia. However, this isn’t limited to VR; even reading or tablets can similarly increase the risk.

Parents should supervise their child’s use of VR and look out for any signs of discomfort or eye strain. Young children’s eyes are still developing, and extended exposure may alter their development. Also, encourage children to spend just as much time outside, at least 1 hour a day

VR Headsets for Vision Care

In some cases, VR isn’t only not bad for your eyes; it can actually be good! Some optometrists have been using VR with vision therapy to treat conditions such as amblyopia, strabismus, and convergence insufficiency. These are types of binocular vision disorders that affect how your eyes work together.

Having your eyes unable to team up can be frustrating, and many first present symptoms in children. Using VR to correct binocular vision issues can be a fun but effective way for kids to engage with their treatments.

Experts have developed other systems that could improve:

  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Depth perception
  • Reaction time
  • Eye coordination

It’s an exciting time for vision care, and we’re thrilled to see where things go.

An optometrist talking to her patient in an optical clinic.

Everything in Moderation

While using VR goggles doesn’t cause direct damage, it’s still wise to take certain precautions, such as taking regular breaks. As a rule of thumb, remember that too much of anything is harmful. Find a balance between VR’s fun and exciting world and maintaining good eye health.

Regular eye exams can help us monitor your child’s vision and uncover if there’s anything to be concerned about. Book your eye exam with Discover Eyecare, and let’s keep the fun going in the real and virtual world!

Written by Dr. Jonathan Laudadio

Jonathan was born and raised in Quebec. He moved to Abbotsford, BC, where he attended high school before moving on to UBC for his undergrad. Jonathan completed his Doctorate of Optometry at the Université de Montréal in 2004 with some training at the Portland VA Medical Centre. He has been in private practice since graduating and has worked six years in a laser surgery/ophthalmology clinic. He is a very proud father of 2 girls, plays sports, loves his Montreal Canadiens, and baseball.
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