Dizziness from Gaming

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How to Fix Dizziness from Gaming and Prolonged Screen Use

What’s up, everyone? Have you been struggling with dizziness from gaming and are not sure where to start? Today we are going to be helping you understand how to alleviate dizziness from gaming and prolonged screen use

As a healthcare professional with several years of university and a gamer, I understand the challenges that can arise from spending extended hours in front of screens, and it will only increase with tech advancements. This article will explore how prolonged screen use, especially during intense gaming sessions with games that feature lots of movement, can lead to dizziness. We’ll explore the anatomical systems involved, possible diagnoses, associated symptoms, and, most importantly, how to treat and prevent these discomforts.

Anatomical Systems Involved:

Let’s quickly examine the critical anatomical systems involved to understand why dizziness occurs. Prolonged screen use primarily affects two essential systems: The visual system and the vestibular system. There is a third system known as the proprioceptive system. To keep this condensed, unless you’re a strictly an AR or VR player, typically this system isn’t as involved for stationary seated positions.

Visual System: 

Your eyes work tirelessly to process the images on the screen, focusing and adjusting continuously. Staring at a screen for too long can strain the eye muscles, leading to discomfort and visual disturbances. While I could dive into the ins and outs of how complex the optical system is, let’s keep it simple: 

Basic Anatomy of the Eye:
  • Sclera: The outermost layer, known as the sclera, is the tough, white protective layer that maintains the eye’s shape.
  • Cornea: The cornea is the transparent front part of the eye that allows light to enter. It also contributes significantly to focusing light onto the retina.
  • Iris: The colored part of the eye, the iris, regulates the amount of light entering the eye by adjusting the pupil size.
  • Pupil: The pupil is the black center of the eye, and its size adjusts in response to light conditions.
  • Lens: Located behind the iris, the lens focuses light onto the retina. It is flexible, allowing us to adjust our focus between distant and close objects.
  • Retina: The retina is the innermost layer, containing light-sensitive cells called photoreceptors. These cells convert light into electrical signals the brain interprets as visual information.
  • Optic Nerve: The optic nerve transmits visual information from the retina to the brain for processing.
  • There are also 6 muscles responsible for controlling eye movement in all directions. 

Vestibular System: 

This system in your inner ear contributes to balance and spatial orientation. When you’re engrossed in a game or movie, your head movements might not align with the visual input, causing a mismatch between what your eyes see and what your inner ear senses. This mismatch can result in dizziness and disorientation. This one is slightly more complicated, so we’re sticking with pictures (see below). 


Diagnoses and Symptoms:

Common dizziness diagnoses from prolonged screen use include digital eye strain and simulation sickness (also known as motion sickness from screen movement). Let’s break down the symptoms associated with these diagnoses:

Digital Eye Strain:

  • Eye fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry eyes
  • Neck and shoulder pain

Digital eye strain is prevalent and tends to go away without specific treatment. You can increase your healing time by reducing the strain on the eye with rest and proper eye lubrication and hydration. 

Simulation Sickness:

  • Dizziness or Vertigo: A feeling of spinning or unsteadiness
  • Nausea: The sensation of wanting to vomit.
  • Sweating: Increased perspiration due to discomfort.
  • Disorientation: Feeling confused or out of touch with your surroundings.
  • Fatigue: Feeling drained after exposure to simulated motion.

Simulation Sickness is also prevalent. This typically occurs when an imbalance or different messages are sent to the brain between the visual and vestibular systems. Depending on the root cause, seeing a physical therapist or other healthcare provider for diagnostic testing may be warranted to correct the underlying issue. 

Fun Fact: You can exercise these systems to work together just like you work out a muscle. 


Prevention:

  • Follow the 20-20-20 Rule: Take a 20-second break every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away to reduce eye strain.
  • Proper Lighting: Ensure adequate lighting to reduce glare on the screen. Position your screen to avoid reflections and use ambient lighting in the room.
  • Screen Positioning: Keep your screen at eye level and maintain a comfortable distance to reduce strain on your eyes and neck.
  • Blink Regularly: Blinking helps moisten your eyes, preventing dryness and discomfort. Be mindful to blink consciously during intense gaming sessions.
  • Reduce Blue Light Exposure: Use blue light filters on screens or wear glasses designed to block blue light, especially before bedtime, to improve sleep quality.

Conclusion:

Taking care of your eyes and minimizing dizziness from prolonged screen use is crucial for a healthier gaming and screen time experience. By understanding the anatomical systems involved, recognizing common diagnoses and symptoms, and implementing practical treatment strategies, you can optimize your eye health and enjoy your screen time without the unpleasant side effects. Incorporate these routines into your daily life, and your eyes will thank you for the improved comfort and clarity. Happy gaming!

Dr. Nick Fulco, PT, DPT, Cert. DN, TPI

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