Opening your eyes and seeing a single, clear image is something you probably take for granted. If you start seeing double images when your eyes normally work well together, you should take it seriously. While double vision (also called diplopia) may be temporary, you should still schedule an eye exam with your eye doctor to find out what's going on.
Double vision can occur by itself with no other symptoms. Depending on the cause, other symptoms may be present with double vision, such as:
- Misalignment of one or both eyes (a "wandering eye" or "cross-eyed" appearance)
- Pain with eye movements in one or both eyes
- Pain around the eyes, such as in the temples or eyebrows
- Weakness in the eyes or anywhere else
- Droopy eyelids
These symptoms may not necessarily mean that you have double vision. However, if you experience one or more of these symptoms, contact your eye doctor for a comprehensive exam.
Double vision may be the result of a refractive error, where light from an object is split into two images by a defect in your eye's optical system. Cataracts might, for example, cause such a defect.
Double vision also may result from failure of both eyes to point at the object being viewed, a condition referred to as ocular misalignment. In normal vision, both eyes look at the same object. The images seen by both eyes are fused into a single picture by the brain. If your eyes do not point at the same object, the image seen by each eye is different and cannot be fused. This results in double vision.
Your doctor will most likely use multiple methods to diagnose the cause for double vision. Blood tests, a physical exam, and possibly imaging studies like computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging are frequently used.
With double vision, the most important step is to identify and treat the underlying cause. In some cases, double vision can be improved by managing or correcting its cause. If double vision can't be reversed, treatments can help people live with double vision. In certain circumstances this may require wearing an eye patch or special prism glasses to minimize the effect of double vision.
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