Normally, each of your eyes sees a slightly different view of the same object and an intricate system of muscles, nerves and the brain puts these two images together to create one 3D image. When this visual processing system isn’t working correctly or when the eyes point or focus improperly, you may find yourself seeing two of each object. This is referred to as double vision, also known medically as diplopia.
Double vision may be a temporary problem that occurs when you’re overtired or have had too much to drink, but it can also be a symptom of a more serious condition. If you are experiencing double vision that isn’t the result of either of the above, consult an eye doctor as soon as possible.
The following is an explanation of some of the causes and treatments of double vision.
Visual System Malfunctions
Your visual system is made up of many parts, such as the anterior structures of the eye like the cornea and lens, the posterior structures, eye muscles and the brain. If any part of this system isn’t working properly, double vision can be the result. Some of the more common causes of double vision are as follows:
- Corneal surface problems, i.e. when the corneal surface is not clear enough to see through
- Stroke or brain conditions. Double vision may be the first sign of a stroke, brain swelling, aneurysm or tumor. Your eye doctor may refer you to a neurologist for further tests and treatment
- A head injury
- Cranial nerve palsies can cause the eyes to look in separate directions. It’s often caused by diabetes but can also be due to a head injury, tumor, MS, meningitis, high blood pressure or an aneurysm.
- Corneal irregularities, such as a cone-shaped cornea or a deterioration of the corneal structure can sometimes be helped with special rigid contact lenses to help resurface the eye, but sometimes corneal implants are needed.
- Eye herpes and shingles can cause corneal changes and lead to double vision
- Refractive surgery can sometimes result in a side effect like double vision. It often improves over time as the eye heals and eye drops may help, as well.
- Severe dry eye may have you seeing ghost or shadow images. Eye drops, punctual plugs or oral supplements to promote tear production can help. Eyelid hygiene is also very important. Sometimes a combination of treatments is needed.
Other Causes of Double Vision
Other causes of double vision can include cataracts, severe migraines, eye alignment problems, thyroid disorders, autoimmune disorders, misalignment of eye muscles, a thyroid disorder like Graves disease or nerve problems.
Multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects the ability of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord to communicate with each other. Guillain-Barre syndrome results in progressive muscle weakness, as can diabetes.
As mentioned before, double vision may be the first sign of very serious problems such as a stroke or a tumor. If you experience double vision, rule out these more serious conditions by having your eyes checked as soon as possible.