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Double Vision: Possible Causes and What You Can Do About It

A study by the University of Michigan Kellogg Center shows about 850,000 Americans visit the doctor yearly with double vision-related problems. Though cases of life-threatening double vision are rare, double vision is one of the many causes of vision loss. Besides vision loss, double vision can affect balance, movement, body posture, and reading ability. Often, the cause of the disorder is temporary, and it disappears after a few days.

Double vision, or diplopia, is a condition that makes the images overlap, separate or appear tilted. There are different types of diplopia, and each of them occurs depending on your specific health conditions. Also, treatment for double vision depends on the particular style and cause of the disorder. For example, you could be battling a stroke if you experience sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes. Sometimes, seeing double objects arises from a lack of blood flow to the brain.

Double vision is a temporary issue that should disappear after a few days. If it stays longer, you could talk to your doctor to examine any underlying health conditions.

This article discusses the causes of double vision and how to deal with the condition.

What Is a Double Vision?

Diplopia is an eye disorder that presents due to eye muscle dysfunction. If you have seen two images instead of one, you may have experienced double vision. Double vision may affect one eye (monocular) or affect both eyes (binocular). In severe cases, double vision is a combination of all the scenarios.

When you see two images of a single object, you should book an appointment with your doctor for a diagnosis. Simple causes of double vision may resolve or improve through eye exercises. An eye examination can determine if you need a prescription for glasses. But if the reasons are a limited blood supply to the brain, you might need an operation to open up the blood vessels.

Your ophthalmologist will classify your double vision as monocular diplopia or binocular diplopia. Binocular diplopia presents when both eyes are open simultaneously and disappears when you cover one of your eyes. Monocular diplopia, though very common, is less severe than binocular diplopia.

Possible Causes of Double Vision

Double vision can make some activities like driving very dangerous. The brain collects and processes each eye’s representation as one clear picture. The brain and eye coordination must run uninterrupted- any disruption causes diplopia. So, the eyes must work harmoniously to create depth perception. If the process fails, you begin to see double objects.

Besides the significant causes of monocular diplopia and binocular diplopia, other issues in your body and eyes may cause double vision.

Causes of Double Binocular Vision

Though there are many causes of double binocular vision, the most common one is a squint or strabismus. Strabismus, a disorder that causes the eyes to misalign, is more common in children.

Strabismus causes the eyes to look in different directions. Also:

  • Overactive
  • Abnormal nerves
  • Paralyzed or weak
  • Have restricted movement

If you had a squint as a child, it could return later in your adult life. It’s the treatment of a squint in some patients that results in double vision.

Other causes of binocular diplopia include:

  • Diabetes which sometimes severely affects the nerves that control the eyes and coordinate the brain and the eyes
  • Nerve damage. Conditions such as stroke, head injury, multiple sclerosis, or infection may damage some of your extraocular muscles. A stroke prevents the blood from reaching the brain due to an obstruction in the blood vessels.
  • Facial trauma affecting the eye muscles or thin bones of the eye socket
  • Myasthenia gravis

Causes of Monocular Diplopia

Monocular diplopia is less common. It affects only one eye and goes away when you close one of the eyes. But when you open or uncover the shut-eye, you still experience double vision. This condition is not as severe as binocular diplopia.

Some of the causes of monocular diplopia include:

  • Cataracts or clouding of the eye lens
  • Astigmatism, which makes the surface of the cornea irregular
  • Dislocated lens occasioned by trauma or existing medical condition
  • Corneal scarring that results from a previous eye surgery or trauma
  • Dry eyes, which happen when your eyes can’t make enough quality tears
  • Irregular retinal surface and swelling of the eyelid

Treatments for Double Vision

Treatment for double vision depends on its type and root causes. For instance, if you have monocular diplopia, your doctor may suggest fixing refractive errors. Correcting the error may include a corrective refractive error surgery like LASIK. You could use eye drops if you have dry eyes.

For binocular diplopia, treatment depends on what is causing the eye misalignment.

  • Children struggling with strabismus can use specialized glasses that block vision in one eye and thus correct double vision.
  • Your doctor may also prescribe prismatic corrections. The method involves using a unique prism on your corrective lenses to give your eyes a focus point.
  • The doctor might inject Botox directly into the muscles to help them relax.
  • Eye exercises also strengthen your eye muscles.

Other Treatments Include:

  • Eyeglasses
  • Wearing an eye patch
  • Using an opaque contact lens
  • Surgery on eye muscles to correct their positioning

There are numerous causes of double vision. Treatment for the condition depends on the type of double vision and the underlying cause. If diagnosed early, your doctor may reverse it by treating any underlying cause.


Experiencing persistent double vision accompanied by pain or blurry vision may indicate an eye disorder. Also, if you notice bruises around the eye socket, blood within the eye, or a change in the arrangement of the iris, see your ophthalmologist immediately.

Diplopia may be temporary but also can signal a more severe condition. Treatment will depend on the specific cause. Your doctor will only recommend the appropriate treatment after thoroughly evaluating your diplopia.

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