What is Diplopia?

Double vision while driving

Causes and Treatments For Diplopia

Many of us have experienced diplopia, or double vision, at some time in our lives. About 850,000 visits to doctor's offices and emergency rooms are due to double vision, according to a research study conducted at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center.

Diplopia isn't necessarily a sign of a serious eye condition. It can occur if your eyes are dry, you're tired, or you have a pounding migraine. In most cases, double vision doesn't last long, and your vision quickly returns to normal.

Although diplopia is usually temporary, it can be a chronic problem for some people. Double vision complicates your life, making reading, writing, and even walking difficult. Fortunately, vision therapy can help you stop seeing double.

What Causes Diplopia?

Good vision is more complicated than it looks. Your eyes, muscles, nerves, and brain work together to produce the images you see. If a problem affects any of these structures or organs, you may experience double vision in one or both eyes. Images may appear side by side, or you may see one image on top of the other.

Double vision can be caused by:

  • Strabismus. Commonly called "crossed eyes," strabismus occurs when the eyes aren't properly aligned. As a result, the brain doesn't receive the same input from both eyes, which can cause double vision. If the condition isn't corrected, the brain may eventually ignore the signals it receives from one eye. Even minor alignment issues can cause strabismus.
  • Muscle and Nerve Problems. Strong eye muscles allow your eyes to move easily between objects and are essential for eye alignment. Problems can also occur if the nerves that carry messages between your brain and eye muscles are damaged.
  • Cataracts. Cataracts cloud the normally clear lenses of your eyes and may be responsible for double vision.
  • Diabetes. You may be more likely to experience diplopia if your diabetes isn't properly controlled.
  • Convergence Insufficiency. Convergence insufficiency occurs when your eyes don't work well together when you focus on near objects.
  • Refractive Procedures. Some people experience double vision after having Lasik or photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) surgery to improve their eyesight.
  • Issues with Your Cornea. Scars, infections and even chronic dry eye can damage your cornea, the clear layer of cells that covers your iris and pupil. Diplopia can also occur if you have keratoconus, a condition that happens when your cornea thins and becomes cone-shaped.
  • Head Injury. Double vision can be an issue with head injuries, even if the injury seems minor.
  • Processing Problems. The brain processes the light impulses it receives from your eyes and turns those impulses into images. Injuries, infections, tumors, aneurysms, and strokes may affect the brain's processing abilities, causing double vision and other vision issues.

How is Diplopia Treated?

Diplopia treatment varies depending on the cause. Replacing your cloudy lens with an intraocular lens implant will end diplopia if you have cataracts, while keeping your blood sugar under control and reducing double or blurred vision if you have diabetes.

Vision therapy may be helpful if you have certain eye conditions, including amblyopia, strabismus (lazy eye), convergence insufficiency or visual processing problems. It may also improve double vision and other symptoms that can occur if you have a muscle or nerve problem or are recovering from a stroke or head injury.

The therapy can strengthen weak eye muscles, improve eye teaming, and enhance the connection between your eyes and brain. During vision therapy, you may play a computer game that trains your eyes to work together. You may be asked by your vision therapist to call out the letters you see on a swinging ball or improve your convergence abilities by stacking wooden blocks on a peg. Prism lenses may also be used during your treatment. The lenses bend the light rays entering your eyes, ensuring that your brain receives the same information from both of your eyes.

It's never too late to participate in vision therapy. If you're an adult, you may have been told that there's no hope for your problem. Eye doctors now know that the adult brain is much more adaptable than once thought. In fact, you can benefit from vision therapy no matter what your age.

Are you tired of living with double vision? Contact us to schedule an appointment for a comprehensive eye examination.


Optometrists Network: Successful Improvement of Eyesight with Therapy for Patients with Lazy Eye Proven Possible at Later Ages by Many New Studies


University of Michigan Health: Report Reveals Prominence of Double Vision Complaints, 10/26/17


All About Vision: Diplopia: Double Vision and Ghost Images, 6/19


Harvard Health Publishing: Double Vision, 7/19


Stanford Health Care: Causes of Double Vision



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