Why Is 3D Vision Important?

Dr. Russel Lazarus, September 23, 2021

Over 1 in 20 people have vision problems that inhibit their ability to see in 3D.

Stereopsis, or 3D depth perception, occurs when your brain merges the two images received from each eye to form a single 3D image. This allows an individual to readily and accurately engage and interact with the environment around them.

What is 3D vision important?

3D vision problems can indicate a serious eye disease.

Stereopsis is the ability to perceive your surroundings in three dimensions (3D), allowing you to judge the distance between you and the objects around you. Amblyopia (lazy eye), a significant eye disorder, can be indicated by poor stereopsis.

3D vision is essential to hit or catch a ball or drive a car, and difficulties here could be due to undiagnosed vision problems.

Stereopsis and 3D vision are necessary for driving and playing many sports, and contributes to a high quality of life.

Types of stereopsis

There are two types of stereopsis – coarse stereopsis and fine stereopsis.

  1. Coarse stereopsis, also known as gross stereopsis, provides the sense of being immersed in one’s surroundings. It is necessary for maintaining spatial orientation when moving.
  2. Fine stereopsis — that is, very small quantities of depth between objects – is frequently assessed during an eye exam. Fine motor tasks like threading a needle require it.

Signs of stereopsis problems

Poor or diminished 3D vision and stereopsis has symptoms that include:

  • Eye turn (strabismus)
  • Asthenopia (eye strain)
  • Clumsiness
  • Tendency to cover or close one eye
  • Difficulty concentrating or paying attention
  • Diplopia (double vision)
  • Dizziness/vertigo
  • Inaccurate depth judgment
  • Difficulties with driving, especially parking
  • Motion sickness
  • Dislikes sports, especially those requiring hand-eye coordination

If you or your child experience any of the above symptoms, contact an eye doctor near you. 

SEE RELATED: Vision Therapy: Glossary of Terms

Find a Vision Therapy Eye Doctor Near You

What causes stereopsis problems?

There are a variety of reasons for depth perception problems.

The following are some of the most common causes of poor stereopsis:

  1. Strabismus (eye turn): This condition occurs when your eyes are misaligned, leading each eye to focus in  a slightly different direction.
  2. Amblyopia (lazy eye): As a result of lazy eye the brain favors one eye over the other, causing one eye to track incorrectly. Amblyopia can reduce depth perception by causing visual loss in the weaker eye.
  3. Blurry vision: From eye problems, glaucoma, and corneal abrasions to nearsightedness and diabetic retinopathy, there are dozens of possible causes of blurry vision.  Any ailment that produces blurry vision, even if just temporarily, can impair your ability to accurately judge distances and depth.
  4. Trauma to one of your eyes: If one of your eyes is injured, you may not be able to see well enough to have good depth perception.
  5. Nerve conditions: If your optic nerve is inflamed or swollen, it might damage your vision and interfere with depth perception. Also any condition that impacts the nerves operating the eyes can cause difficulties with 3D vision.

Vision Therapy Can Help 

Vision therapy for lazy eye is the most effective approach to improve stereopsis.

Vision therapy teaches the eyes to communicate with one another and can assist those with impaired stereopsis caused by strabismus or amblyopia (lazy eye) to restore good depth perception.

Vision therapy can help a person regain good depth perception by combining eye exercises, prisms and/or patching.

LEARN MORE: Guide to Vision Therapy

Schedule an appointment with an eye doctor near you if you have difficulty with depth perception.

3D vision difficulties are not only an inconvenience but can indicate a serious eye condition. 

Any difficulties trying to catch a ball or drive a car can be due to undiagnosed vision problems.