Can VR be unhealthy?

Below is an Article where a Dev believes his vision may have been damaged by VR. Creating a vergence issue similar to Dyslexia.

Read with an open mind as VR is still very new and we truly don’t have enough time and Data to really conclude anything.


It would make sense that the vergence-accommodation conflict could create harmful neurological habituations over time. Another reason to solve the problem!


Possible? Yes. IIRC, there have been extremely rare cases (like 5 worldwide) of 5mw laser pointers (tested to actually output only 5mw) rapidly causing catastrophic permanent eye damage, even though thermally this should be a near impossibility. There was also a case of someone who needed a small part of the retina ablated for medical reasons, and agreed to allow a 5mw green laser pointer to be used in brief daily treatments that accumulated the necessary damage in approximately one month.

His case may be unusual, but the idea of taking frequent VR breaks and exercising one’s eyes is solid advice regardless.

Definitely true. Also observe what you see carefully, with both eyes, covering one eye, looking at near/far objects, etc. Frequent observations may be a good way to catch the gradual onset of something permanent.

Personally though, VR has, if anything, improved my eyesight. Naturally, I am slightly nearsighted (although 20/20 in both eyes), so the infinite focus helps a bit. The extra challenges of seeing clearly in VR has also helped me get even better at using my eyes generally. So at least it is possible for this to go both ways.


The rest periods is important especially after you has mentioned your eyes were observed as being out of alignment with one another.

The simple truth VR is too new to know how long term use will affect one. Sure there is also research in using specifically designed VR programs for improving sight and treating a variety of other medical issues.

The article is simply a cautionary tale. A lot of health and safety research has been a result of time.


Well I’m a bit biased because I like VR and as someone a bit farsighted I feel more relaxed in VR with the focal distance kept at a comfortable level. (also dont feel eyestrain from ipd, i know that not everyone is that lucky)

However I think it’s interesting that it’s the patient publishing a paper and not the medical professional. also one of the comments mentioned that the article did not mention that it was a preexisting condition that was being aggravated. (supposedly the original article from somewhere else did mention that)

Anyways i doubt most of us is spending as much time in vr as that guy was so I guess we should be cautious, but not quite panicking yet.


To an extent. Laser pointers are also new, but it is very well understood how intense light and heat affects human eye anatomy. Likewise, VR is new, but the fundamental effects of various unnatural inputs, including those of stereoscopic image pairs, on eye muscles and neural ‘topographic maps’, have been studied carefully enough to confidently predict long-term rates of change.

Keep in mind the human visual stuff we now have the technology to try out so effortlessly has been of intense interest to painstaking psychometric and neuroscience researchers, who have been gathering that data with highly specialized setups to extrapolate the inner details of how the system works.

EDIT: There is one other potential pitfall in this user’s case. As a developer, he was probably switching between headset and desktop monitor very frequently.

he also took breaks every 30 minutes

This is perhaps a little too often. Switching in an out of VR too frequently can induce some particular severe forms of eyestrain.


Well if you consider the timeline his VR trek began with low res VR.

However as I mentioned with Health & Safety. VR atm is too new to know how it will affect one years from now with accumulated exposure.

There are far too many unknowns as @mirage335 mentioned the DeV might be a very small fraction of a percent or as you mentioned he may have had a pre unknown undiagnosed condition. No Doctor is likely to publish something until there is significant proof to suggest a potential(meaning more cases).

However if VR alters our perception of vergence due to alignment. Than Eye tracking could be truly one of the needed fixes to ensure image is properly aligned with the eyes.

In another 5 to 6 years we will have a better idea on the effects good and bad VR has.

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Amd also released synthetic research on Monitors and macro degeneration of the eyes. Simple truth we won’t know fully until enough real time has past.

“It’s not necessarily what we don’t know that can hurt us. But what we know for sure that later becomes proven incorrect.”

It could also just be the fact low res VR like og rift and vive. After all many had to adjust to the low res and SDE.

I used a Rift and Vive for a total of about 1000 hours. The temptation to look across the gap at the nose caused incomparably worse eyestrain than the resolution, especially before I had reasonably robust virtual monitors.


And you like the dev are too few too conclude anything one way or the other

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A statistically significant sample of evidence existed long before VR headsets became commonly available. The physiology is very well understood. Vast majority of users will be fine.

Similar ‘controversy’ has arisen over such products as the Nintendo 3DS, and been similarly dismissed from the science that came before.

With an extremely high degree of confidence, on the order of trillions to one, it is possible to draw reasonable conclusions that the vast majority of VR users will suffer no substantial permanent eye damage.

Also, I dispute that VR is too new. Millions of different people are using it in many different ways now, Just from Elite Dangerous and Flight Sim communities, at least several thousand people have spent many thousands of hours in VR under high eyestrain conditions. Serious permanent ill effects are rare, to the point of nearly unheard of. The very data point that this thread opened with was very much a worst case scenario, at 10000 hours, under what may be some of the worst possible conditions, and the person in question is still planning to continue using VR. That itself is a testament that VR is not unreasonably unhealthy.

By now, this topic is already becoming unscientific, and should be locked.

Statistically there has not been sufficient passage of time with VR being available to the masses to conclude anything at this point.

A key change like High res displays we have now changes one of the components of vergence conflict.

Eyetracking will also help with proper pupil to image alignment as well and is likely key.

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My take is that the human eye is quite adaptable. I think the risk of permanent damage is low. Getting used to progressive multifocal eyeglasses is initially challenging, but I can now easily adapt to wearing them or not. (I’m near-sighted, so I don’t need glasses at my computer.)

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Yes drawing conclusions that it is safe or unsafe with limited data is unscientific.

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Good science, recognizes that data is always ‘limited’, and quantifies in terms of statistical significance, good hypothesis, convergence of evidence, building up to a scientific consensus .

Scientific consensus is the collective judgment, position, and opinion of the community of scientists in a particular field of study.

In this case, decades of extremely high-quality research have pinned down the physiologic effects to predictable ranges of change with time, and far more than statistically significant samples of humans have been using the technology, with a sufficiently small rate of severe effects to…

… generalize to the entire human population over very long timescales allowing for at most a few dozen cases of severe permanent human ocular system damage.

Are there some basic safety steps worth taking? Yes. Are VR headsets ‘safe’ beyond standards typically applied to consumer or even food products? Yes.

science aside, tons of ban-worthy jokes immediately come to my mind concerning that topic. great read though


Asbestos was considered so safe by the research it had it was used in all sorts of building materials and Fire Safety equipment that fire fighters used. It is so safe you can eat it without adverse affect.

However many many years later it was discovered that breathing Asbestos is extremely unhealthy and is no longer used and if Asbestos is discovered a very careful safe procedure is used to remove it.

Lead has a similar storey until was it in the 80s they realized it was causing all sorts of lead poisoning related illness. Removing it widespread from paint and pipes supplying your drinking water.

Lead and Asbestos had decades of research and was used in public so it had Scientific Consensus quantifying it was safe until it was proven not.

Health & Safety has often used trial n error reducing exposure levels. When new acceptable level is found to still be creating issues the exposure level rating is reduced in ppm and/ time limits of use.


Well I have read that Canada’s food safety standards are higher than the US.

Really, I would not compare those ‘decades of research’ or ‘used in public’ to this.