What causes double vision and how can I treat it?
02 March 2021
Are you seeing double?
Have you ever looked at an object, tried to focus your eyes, and seen two images instead? It can be quite unsettling, particularly if it hasn’t happened to you before. The image you’re seeing might have two versions appearing next to each other, or stacked on top of one another – or perhaps even a combination of both.
Double vision – also known as diplopia – can affect your ability to read properly, seriously impacting work or learning, as well as affecting your balance and concentration. It can occur for a number of different reasons – some of which are more concerning than others – so it’s important that you know which type of double vision you have, and what the cause of it might be.
Double vision in one eye
Does your double vision affect just one of your eyes? If so, it is monocular diplopia. This is the least common type of double vision and it’s also the less serious form. The fact that only one eye is affected by diplopia suggests that it’s likely caused by a problem within the eye itself. This usually means it’s easier to treat and isn’t a sign of anything particularly sinister.
You can check whether your diplopia is monocular by covering one eye and seeing if the double vision disappears. If it doesn’t, try covering the other eye. If it is still present once you have tried both of these, it’s likely to be binocular diplopia.
Double vision in both eyes
Double vision across both eyes is called binocular diplopia. Most people who regularly experience double vision are suffering with this form. As the problem appears in both eyes, it’s often an indication of a problem with the brain, which is usually a serious issue. Alternatively, binocular diplopia can also occur as a result of issues with eye muscles, which is less serious and easier to rectify.
Causes of double vision
Double vision can occur for a number of reasons, whether that’s an issue within the eye or the muscles holding it in place, or something more serious to do with the brain. The main causes of double vision are:
- Dry eye disease
- Retinal abnormalities
- Early stage cataracts
- Nerve or muscle damage
- Eye muscles issues (e.g. weak, paralysed, restricted movement, too strong, or overactive)
- Brain tumours
Sudden double vision that goes away
If you experience sudden double vision that goes away, it could be due to a number of factors. Most of the time, it can be brought on by tiredness or having strained eyes. Other causes of temporary double vision can include:
- Recreational drugs
- Particular medication
Most of the time, temporary double vision isn’t anything to worry about. However, if you also experience eye pain alongside it, it’s best to have your eyes checked to ensure that it isn’t a sign of something more serious.
How to know if your child has double vision
Monitoring changes in your own vision is tricky enough, without worrying about your child’s vision too. Vision problems in children often go undetected for long periods as they don’t always articulate any visual changes they experience. Similarly, if the problem has been present from a young age, they might not know any different or realise that anything is wrong. Signs of double vision in young children include:
- Covering one eye with their hand
- Squinting or narrowing their eyes
- A wandering eye
- Holding objects to the side, rather than looking at them face on
If you notice any of these changes in your child’s behaviour, contact an optician and ask for them to examine your child’s vision. Usually with problems such as strabismus, the earlier it is identified and treated, the better the chances of recovery and restoring good vision are.
How to cure double vision
Methods for treating double vision will vary depending on the cause of your condition. Common solutions for diplopia are:
- Corrective lenses
- Specialised glasses
- Surgery on eye muscles
- Dedicated exercises
Often, double vision occurs due to misaligned vision caused by strabismus, so performing exercises to help strengthen the eye’s muscles should help correct the problem. Alternatively, for more severe forms of strabismus, minor surgery to shorten the muscles which hold your eyeball in place can be performed. This pulls the eye into a forward facing position, and should help rectify issues with double vision.
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