In my last article I described a condition known as “stereo blindness” which affects many children and adults. Thanks to Avatar, binocular vision problems that cause stereo blindness areåÊnow gaining more public awareness. Yes, the stereo blind individual not only “can’t see it” (3-D), but for 165 minutes of this movie åÊthey will have a “blurry” or “smeary” visual experience. Thus, for the stereo blind, Avatar is just not enjoyable because it just looks out of focus.
However, for those who have another common binocular vision problem, Convergence Insufficiency (CI), AvataråÊmayåÊmake them sick! Yes, Avatar can actually be aåÊ”health hazard” for those with weak binocular vision ability.
Unlike the stereo blind individual,åÊthose with Convergence Insufficiency (CI)åÊåÊactually can useåÊtheir binocular vision, however theyåÊjuståÊuse it very poorly. For example, in a normal daily reading task,åÊthe child or adult with CI will have trouble coordinatingåÊtheir eyes to look at near. They will experience eye strain, fatigue, words overlapping (double vision). Therefore the person (with CI) will simply get away from it and avoid the visual task. In other words, they respond to thisåÊ”reading aåÊbook discomfort” by puttingåÊthe book down.
On the other hand when this sameåÊperson enters the theater to watch 3-D Avatar they areåÊfaced with a giant screen and for 165 minutes, they experience highly stimulative 3-D images. For the person with normal binocular vision, this 3-D Avatar experience is nothing short of spectacular. But foråÊthe person with poor binocular vision (CI) theåÊAvatar visual extravaganza resultsåÊin an over stimulation of their visual system often resulting in headaches, nausea and dizziness. In essence, Avatar will make them sick!
While 3-D Avatar is no doubt one of the most entertaining films of all time, there is still a risk that this movie can cause illness in those who have certain visual problems. The good news is that 3-D Avatar can serve an importantåÊservice to the public health by alerting those with binocular vision problems. Anyone who experiences illness from this film should see their primary care eye doctor, preferably a doctor who isåÊexperienced in the diagnosis and treatmentåÊof patients with binocular vision problems.
IfåÊAvatar makes you sick, it is importantåÊto know that binocular vision problems like Convergence Insufficiency can be successfully treated thoughåÊoffice-based optometric vision therapy. Just like in the movie…for the patient with CI, there can be a happy ending!
Dan L. Fortenbacher, O.D., FCOVD