Eye doctors spend 70 percent of their practice’s time diagnosing and treating double vision. Even if you’ve never experienced this uncomfortable condition, it’s incredibly common. Double vision can occur in one or both eyes, at any age or demographic. It could mean you need a new prescription for your glasses. Or, it could be a sign of stroke, tumor, or worse. Learn about the causes and treatment for double vision in case it ever happens to you.
What Is Double Vision?
Double vision, or diplopia, occurs when you see multiple images while staring at one object. Sometimes the images are side by side, other times they’re overlapping. It can be incredibly disorienting and affect your balance. It’s can also cause migraine headaches and nausea. Essentially, your vision is impaired. It can last from seconds to days.
There are two types of double vision: monocular and binocular. Monocular means that only one eye is affected by double vision. If you cover the unaffected eye, you would still have double vision; if you cover the affected eye, your vision would be normal. Binocular double vision means both eyes are affected in connection to each other. Covering one eye or the other will return vision to normal but using both eyes to see will result in double vision.
Monocular double vision is generally a sign that there’s something wrong with the eye itself. Whereas binocular vision is usually an indication of another health condition going on in the brain or muscles surrounding the eyes.
What Causes Monocular Double Vision?
The causes of monocular double vision can vary, but they all revolve around the eye’s function. For some, it’s a result of intense dry eye syndrome. Our eyes suffer intense dryness when there’s an issue with the tear duct functioning, a vitamin A deficiency, or simply aging. It could also be a sign of a more serious underlying issue. When you go see your eye doctor, they can give you synthetic teardrops to lubricate the eye and hopefully relieve your double vision.
Monocular double vision can also be an indication that you need glasses or need a new prescription. This is especially common for people with astigmatisms. In this situation, the lens of your eye is shaped oddly and therefore light can’t go evenly into your retina. This can cause a glare, eye strain, blurry vision or double vision.
Later in life, double vision can be a sign of cataracts. This common condition affects 50 percent of Americans over 80 years old. The trademark symptom of cataracts is the visibly cloudy lenses on the eyes. However, you may notice blurry vision before the fogginess in your lens is visible.
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What Causes Binocular Double Vision?
Experiencing double vision in both eyes is more serious than having it in only one. While it could mean each of your eyes is suffering from an ocular condition, it’s more likely to be a sign of a problem in the brain or eye muscles.
One common cause for binocular double vision is nerve damage. People with multiple sclerosis have nerve damage and scarring on their spinal cord and brain which can affect the transmission of messages from the brain to the eyes. This is especially true when damage and scarring are located at the lower back of the brain. Double vision and other eye conditions are often the first sign of multiple sclerosis.
Suffering a stroke can also result in nerve damage which affects the eyes. If the stroke damages the nerve control for your eye muscles, one or both eyes may not move properly. With limited mobility in one eye, the alignment is thrown off and you get double vision. Stokes normally affect one side of the brain only, but this, in turn, impacts both eye’s vision. It’s extremely important to treat eye conditions caused by a stroke as soon as possible to reduce chances of permanent vision loss.
Tumors can also be a cause of double vision when they grow in the brain or in and around the eye socket. The pressure of the growth can push on whatever nerves are around it, impairing their functioning. A tumor in the brain stem, occipital lobe, and temporal lobe could result in double vision, partial vision loss, and facial weakness. You may also notice “floaters” in your vision or abnormal eye movement out of your control.
Treatment for Double Vision
Depending on the cause of your double vision, treatment varies. For monocular double vision, it can be as simple as getting your eyes checked and wearing a new prescription of lenses. Or, your doctor may prescribe you eye drops to reduce dryness. Most of the time, treating the underlying issue will also treat the double vision. For example, if your cataracts are causing double vision, having cataract surgery or another form of treatment will improve your double vision.
One form of treatment eye doctors recommend is prism glasses. Double vision is connected to your eyes’ movements; depending on which cause above you suffer with, your eyes may not move in sync with each other. Whether it be from nerve damage, a tumor, or a condition that affects the eye muscles. Prism glasses trick the brain into thinking your eyes are moving in sync and it interprets what you’re seeing as normal, and not doubled. Anyone from children to the elderly can benefit from prism glasses.
Some doctors will prescribe an eye patch to their patient. Eye patches work in a similar way as the prism glasses. By blocking one of your eye’s vision, the brain can only interpret the exposed eye’s view. Some must only wear it a couple hours per day, others only when they’re going to be looking around more than normal.
Another form of treatment for double vision is Botox injections. The stronger eye muscles are injected to weaken them, making their abilities on par with the weaker muscles. This allows both eyes to move equally and in sync. It’s important to see your doctor as soon as you notice double vision. They may be able to treat it with a less invasive method than this, or they’ll discover an underlying issue you can treat right away. As always, prevention is key when it comes to eye health so get regular checkups with your eye doctor to prevent conditions that cause double vision.