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Posted on 10-09-2013

3-D or Not 3-D, That Is The Question

Seen any good 3-D movies lately? Most of them aren’t the best movies ever made, but the 3-D can be spectacular and a lot of fun. Did it look 3-D to you? Did other people who saw the movie with you agree with how 3-D it looked to you? Did your eyes feel funny as you left the theater? Not everyone sees in 3-D, even in real life. Seeing in 3-D is a developed skill not a guarantee.

We see in three dimensions because we have two eyes that can point at the same thing at the same time. This is called binocularity or eye teaming, a process that takes place in the brain. Eye teaming is the basis for depth perception. The brain signals the eyes where to point in space. Both of our eyes will point to a fairly precise location in space when this happens consistently and efficiently. It sounds so simple, and for most people it is…at least to a degree. Some people have better eye teaming skills than others. Most of us develop reasonable eye teaming skills through the normal course of events. However, many of us who do this may still have some weakness in eye teaming that is not obvious and may not cause problems for many years, if ever.

Good eye teaming is an important reason for some people having better athletic abilities than others. Eye teaming is the reason that some people are better drivers than others. Very often someone cuts you off not because they are mean or uncaring, but because they are not competent at judging space and time. Time and space are inseparable so good depth perception goes hand in hand with the ability to make accurate judgments about timing and distances.

Poor depth perception is not as uncommon as you might think. Deficient eye teaming can lead to difficulty with reading, learning and sports. Many, if not most, people with eye teaming issues go through life not knowing that this is part of the problem. This is even true of people who visit the eye doctor regularly. One reason I know this is because it happened to me. Most eye exams are limited to testing eye health and distance visual acuity - the ability to see clearly at a distance of twenty feet and beyond. Eye teaming problems can also cause headaches, dry eyes and fatigue and eye discomfort with reading or working at the computer.

Most eye teaming problems will only be found by a thorough visual evaluation performed by a behavioral optometrist. This is because they are typically not cosmetically noticeable and subtle and the complaints that result are generally brushed off the eye doctor. People often seek an eye doctor's advice for headaches, dry eyes and eye fatigue only to be told that their eyes are fine. It probably is true that the eyes are fine physically, but the problem is that the brain is not signaling the eyes to work in a consistent, integrated way. This can lead to all kinds of symptoms including those mentioned above as well as neck pain, general fatigue, dizziness and others. Eye teaming issues almost always respond well to vision therapy and the proper lenses.

Surgeons insist that eye muscle surgery (strabismus surgery) is the only treatment for an eye turn. They typically deal only with eye turns that are cosmetically noticeable and try to ignore those that aren’t. In part 2 we will discuss this in more depth.

Next time: 3-D or Not 3-D, That Is The Question, Part 2

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