By: Dr. Amber Teten, Pediatric Eye Doctor Chesapeake
Taking your child to see a three-dimensional (3D) movie probably doesn’t make you initially think of pediatric eye care. However, 3D vision is filled with fascinating aspects of how your and your child’s vision works. In watching a 3D movie, have you ever gotten dizzy or had difficulty viewing the movie? Did you know that 32% of the population cannot see in 3D? Perhaps you or your child fall into that category. Not everyone is indeed able to see in 3D.
Top pediatric eye doctors have mapped out how our visual system sees in 3D. You can ask your pediatric eye doctor at your child’s next eye exam if 3D vision is a skill we are born with or learn. Let’s explore the fascinating pediatric eye care topic of 3D in vision and understand how 3D affects you and your child’s daily lives.
How does our brain see in 3D?
Dr. Teten, a pediatric eye doctor, is fascinated with the complexities in the visual pathway of your eyes to the brain. This complex pathway allows you and your child’s brain to process 3D vision. Clear vision is just one portion of this pathway. We must have two eyes to see in 3D. The need for two eyes is because the information that both eyes receive is added together. To see this in action, try this out to see! Open and then close one eye and then the other eye. What did you see? You will observe that your environment seems to shift as you switch eyes.
The image from your right eye and your left eye are separate images. These two images are combined in your brain to achieve a 3D image. It is important that where your eyes are looking in space, it is a similar view between each eye. This similar view allows the brain to merge the images. If the brain gets completely different images, it gets confused and cannot combine them into a 3D picture. If one’s brain is confused with combining the images, the resulting image would appear flat rather than 3D.
So, where is this visual pathway? Each eye’s image must be sent from the eye to the occipital lobe (back of the brain). Once the images reach the occipital lobe, the brain must interpret and combine the visual information. Once this happens, a signal is sent to the part of the brain responsible for motor movements, and then corresponding actions are made, like catching a ball, etc. Combining the images may sound simple, but the pathway is complex, and the process is intense, where there can be many interruptions or poor communication. Which can cause the brain to become confused, resulting in the flat image one may experience.
The development of 3D vision begins in the first few months of life.
For the first two months of your baby’s life, Dr. Teten, a pediatric eye doctor, explains that your baby’s eyes often do not work well together. You may notice your baby’s eyes appear crossed inward, or they may appear to wander out to the side. In most cases, this is normal in the first few months, and it will eventually correct and be straight ahead. But, if one of your baby’s eyes constantly turns in towards their nose or outward toward the wall, you should take them to see a pediatric eye doctor for an eye exam. This eye condition can signify strabismus, where the eye does not point straight ahead but turns to the side or toward the nose. These conditions require an evaluation by a pediatric optometrist to assess treatment for the child’s best visual development.
Our ability to discern depth is a critical visual ability that we begin developing as a baby. At around five months old, it is normal for a baby to start developing the ability to see how far an object is from them (depth perception). Babies at this age are seeing the world in 3D more completely. A perfect example is that they will get better at reaching for objects close or far from them. This developmental skill is critical for future motor development, like crawling and walking.
Between the ages of 4 to 6, typically, both eyes will work well together, and depth perception is fully developed. This depth perception skill helps a child judge distances between themselves and objects in their surroundings. Children with good stereopsis or depth perception feel comfortable and confident interacting with their environment. They are enthusiastic and able to play sports and move around their world more confidently, with less clumsiness.
Dr. Teten, a pediatric optometrist, emphasizes to parents it is essential to watch for developmental milestones, but keep in mind that children do develop at different rates. So, take the age guideline with everything in mind. Be watchful for vision problems like tilting, blinking, squinting, difficulty catching a ball, or avoiding reading. If you see your child experiencing any of these problems, have a local Chesapeake pediatric eye doctor see them.
Causes of reduced stereopsis (3D vision) include:
- Amblyopia (lazy eye)
- Blurred vision
- Binocular vision issues (both eyes not working as a team)
Vision conditions where there is a decrease in visual input from one eye to the brain can cause decreased stereopsis. This condition includes amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (eye turn), or even blurred vision. The solution for blurred vision may be as simple as a pair of glasses or contact lenses. Therefore, it is important to ensure your clear vision by having a comprehensive eye exam yearly with your optometrist. Small vision changes can significantly impact your eyes’ ability to see using both eyes as a team.
Amblyopia (lazy eye) is a condition in the brain that favors one eye’s vision over the other eye, so both eyes working as a team (binocular vision) to create a clear, focused image with depth is not achieved, not sent to the brain. Strabismus (eye turn) is when the eyes are misaligned and not looking in the same direction. This eye turn is a problem with binocular vision and gives mixed images to the brain. In these cases, the brain may get mixed messages and see the double vision (diplopia) or even ignore one of the images from the turned eye.
Poor stereopsis, and depth perception, can make life challenging. Poor depth perception can make learning difficult for children. Children may be unable to describe their visual problems or know they have one. For adults, poor stereopsis can make driving a vehicle difficult. Without depth perception, you cannot adequately tell the distance between your car and another vehicle or your car to objects on the road. Poor depth perception can also make playing sports extremely difficult, with catching or hitting a ball with the perfect timing. And daily life uses depth perception, like pouring milk for your cereal or walking down the stairs.
What can be done to improve stereopsis or 3D vision?
The most effective method to improve stereopsis is Vision Therapy. Vision therapy teaches visual abilities to have better binocular vision (both eyes together). Activities in vision therapy can guide a person to use his/her eyes better together as a team. Vision therapy combines guided eye exercises and treatment with an optometrist and vision therapist.
What can you do today to improve stereopsis 3D vision?
Activities that require good eye-hand coordination are essential. Dr. Teten, a pediatric optometrist, recommends activities such as puzzles, building blocks, peg boards, stringing beads, painting/drawing, line tracing mazes, and playing catch. It is always important to wear sunglasses and hats when outdoors to protect against harmful ultraviolet and wear blue-light protection glasses to block blue-light rays while using digital devices like a phone or computer. Equally important are regular annual eye exams with your local Chesapeake eye doctor.
So, if you or your child are experiencing any 3D issues with their vision, seek proper eye care treatments. We encourage you to call the Navigation Eye Care team at 757-529-6889 or schedule an appointment. We are equipped and prepared to care for you and your whole family. If you are looking for excellent service in a friendly manner, check us out. We highly recommend that you choose Navigation Eye Care when looking for a top eye doctor in Chesapeake. We will serve in the Chesapeake area for many years and can’t wait to see you and your family.