Can Watching Video Games, Movies & TV Be Good for Your Eyes?

written by Carrie Borzillo - Nov 29, 2021
medically reviewed by Dr. Tolulope Olabintan, MD - Dec 28, 2021

Photo Credit: by JESHOOTS.COM,
Photo Credit: by JESHOOTS.COM,

We’ve all heard it before — watching too much TV will rot your brain. Eat more carrots if you want to see well. Playing video games will lead to obesity. If you stare at the screen too long, you’ll go blind. Okay, maybe the last one is taking it too far. But the point is, most of us have heard that watching too much television and playing video games too long is not good for our brains, our bodies, and most of all, our eyes.

Sure, being a couch potato who sits in one place for 12 hours playing video games, eating junk food, and not doing much else is not good for your mind, body, or soul. But there are several studies that prove how small screens can actually be good for your health, and yes, even for your vision.

This October, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of VR treatment for children with the eye condition, amblyopia, better known as “lazy eye.” VR (virtual reality) is a computer technology often used in video games in which a simulated experience can be viewed through a VR device, such as a head-mounted display. Amblyopia, which affects about three percent of children, can occur in early childhood if the nerve pathways between the brain and one eye are not properly stimulated. If that happens, it causes one eye dominant, and the other, the weaker eye, often wanders inward or outward and causes reduced vision.

Luminopia, the digital therapeutics company behind the newly FDA-approved therapy, had patients watch modified television shows or movies through a virtual reality headset to improve their vision. “We’re proud to be part of the FDA’s groundbreaking decision today, to approve a first-of-its-kind digital therapeutic that allows patients to watch their favorite TV shows and movies to improve their vision,” said Scott Xiao, chief executive officer of Luminopia, said in a statement.

In phase three of Luminopia’s trial, a statistically significant difference in visual acuity improvement between the two groups in the study was seen as early as four weeks. Luminopia explains, “At the 12-week primary endpoint, the weak eye visual acuity of patients in the treatment group improved 1.8 lines on average on a logMAR eye chart, compared to a 0.8-line improvement in the control group. The difference between groups in improvement was significant (p=0.001).”

Additionally, 62% of patients in the treatment group showed a strong response to the treatment, which was defined as a 2-line or greater improvement, as opposed to the 33% in the control group. They also report that 84% of patients in the treatment group had a history of patching or atropine therapy and were still left with amblyopia, and Luminopia One was as effective in this subgroup of patients. Median adherence to the prescribed dosage was 88% over the study period, substantially higher than the 48% adherence seen in similar studies with patching.

The product itself, Luminopia One, which is expected to launch in the second quarter of 2022, allows patients to watch therapeutically modified TV shows and movies (about 700+ hours of content are available) to improve their vision within a virtual reality headset. The company’s proprietary algorithms modified the selected videos in real-time within a VR headset to promote the usage of the weaker eye and to encourage the patients’ brains to combine input from both eyes. This treatment is expected to be prescribed by eye care professionals for use one hour per day, six days per week over a 12-week period at home.

Another study also proved that playing video games can help children to improve their amblyopia with a different method. Participants with amblyopia played video games while wearing an eye patch, which is the typical treatment method for children with this condition and saw a dramatic improvement in visual acuity after 20 two-hour sessions. Specifically, they saw an improvement of 1.4 lines and concluded that playing action video games may be an effective adjunct treatment for amblyopia.

The VR approval is the second big move the FDA has taken to use video games or technology for therapeutic reasons. Just last year they also approved a prescription video game made by Akili Interactive called EndeavorRX, to treat ADHD (attention-deficit, hyperactivity disorder) in children aged eight to 12-years-old.

On the heels of the Luminopia/FDA announcement, eye care experts at Feel Good Contacts break down three other ways that playing video games can benefit anyone’s vision, and not just children with amblyopia. Sharon Copeland, contact lens optician for Feel Good Contacts explains…

1. Improves Visual Acuity:

“Playing video games challenges the eye muscles to move and focus quickly, therefore improving visual acuity. Visual acuity is the clarity or sharpness of vision. Opticians will check their patients' visual acuity by getting them to do a visual acuity test whereby the patient will be asked to read out letters or numbers from a chart at a distance. It’s normal for our visual acuity to deteriorate as we age,” says Copeland.

2. Improves Peripheral Vision:

“Playing action games and first-person shooter games such as “Call of Duty” sharpen and improve peripheral vision. These games often have real-life settings such as cities and jungles. While the player may be focused on where they are shooting, their brain is absorbing the whole screen, which often features moving people and objects in the background. Therefore, they are training their peripheral vision, which is incredibly beneficial in real life when noticing things such as trees, moving cars or people. We use our peripheral vision when walking and driving, for example,” says Copeland.

3. Improves Contrast Sensitivity:

“Video games can even improve your ability to perceive and differentiate between shades of grey and improve contrast sensitivity and visual sensitivity to color. If you have a low visual sensitivity to contrast, you may face a challenge when driving at night, especially if it's foggy outside. Contrast sensitivity is one of the first visual capabilities to fade as we age. Nevertheless, according to Daphne Bavelier of the University of Rochester, certain video games can improve your sensitivity to contrast in colors,” says Copeland.

Additionally, Bavelier’s research also shows that video games could someday become part of vision-correction treatments instead of mainly relying on surgeries or corrective lenses. "Once you've had eye surgery or get corrective lenses, exposing yourself to these games should help the optical system to recover faster and better," Bavelier said in a National Geographic interview on the topic. "You need to retrain the brain to make use of the better, crisper information that's coming in" because of your improved eyesight, she added.



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While the above article is based on thorough research, we do not claim to offer a substitute for medical advice from a qualified healthcare provider. The article was written for information and educational purposes only. We aim to provide helpful information to our readers, but cannot provide a treatment, diagnosis, or consultation of any sort, and we are in no way indicating that any particular drug is safe or appropriate for you and your individual needs. To receive professional medical attention, you must see a doctor.