The nascent field of virtual reality typically requires use of a headworn display, despite ongoing concerns for its effect on the ocular system and visual processing.1 As it turns out, the inadvertent moisture goggle effect, albeit small, may have a positive impact on the ocular surface. A study at the New Zealand National Eye Centre found clinically significant improvements in lipid layer thickness and tear film stability with virtual reality (VR) headset wear, despite producing only modest increases in ocular temperatures relative to conventional desktop computer display use.
The prospective study recruited 20 computer operators who, on separate days, were randomized to 40 minutes of continuous virtual reality headset wear or conventional desktop computer use. The researchers collected ocular surface and tear film measurements at baseline and immediately following the 40-minute exposure period.
Virtual reality headset wear resulted in increases in outer eyelid (mean difference +0.5°C) and corneal temperatures (mean difference +0.4°C), compared with conventional desktop computer use. These increases were associated with significant improvements in tear film lipid layer grade (median difference, +1 grade) and non-invasive tear film break-up time (mean difference, +7.2 seconds).
The researchers conclude that VR headset wear has the potential to provide dry eye relief for computer users in the modern workplace environment.
1. Legerton J, Segre L, Marsh J. Reality check: protecting ocular health from headset hazards. Rev Optom. 2018;155(9):52-60.
2. Turnbull PRK, Wong J, Feng J, et al. Effect of virtual reality headset wear on the tear film: A randomised crossover study. Cont Lens Anterior Eye. August 29, 2019. [Epub ahead of print].