Double vision, medically known as diplopia, is not only an irritating condition, but it may actually be very detrimental to daily living. After all, a person can hardly function properly when everything appears double.
Typically, double vision happens when the nerves that stimulate the eye muscles have a disorder. What happens is that the brain fuses the two images that enter the two eyes into only one picture. Since a disorder in muscle movement means that the eyes may not always point at the same object at the same rate, the image that each eye picks up is different and not able to be fused. This is when double vision occurs. When diplopia happens as a temporary episode, there is usually no clinical urgency. It may happen as a brief relaxation of the capability of the central nervous system to fuse images. However, when it happens as a result of a blockage in the brain, it may be a symptom of something more serious, such as transient ischemic attack (TIA), or stroke.
When double vision occurs, the brain�s natural tendency is to fight against it. One way in which the brain does this is to ignore one eye, or what is known as suppression. When the brain resorts to this tactic, double vision can seem to go away without medical treatment or evaluation. But this does not deal with the cause of the double vision; in fact, the lack of treatment may result in a loss of vision in one eye. This loss of vision may be temporary, but in some cases it may be permanent, although the severity depends on the detection as well as treatment. This is the reason why diplopia can sometimes contribute to the loss of binocular vision, depth perception, lazy eye or amblyopia, or deviating eye or strabismus.
Some people think that double vision and blurred vision are the same, but they are actually two different things. Blurred vision involves a single image being seen by one eye as unclear. Double vision, on the other hand, has two images that the eyes see at the same time, one for each eye, which creates confusion for the person suffering from it.
If the patient with deviating eye, whether congenital or paralytic, is a young child, his brain tends to suppress the second image that comes through the misaligned eye in order to prevent its seeing double. This continued misalignment of the eyes may result in poor vision for the affected eye, which is known as lazy eye. The treatment would be to patch up the better eye along with natural eye improvement exercises, which are designed to improve the vision in the deviated eye. When corrected early, strabismus may be prevented from developing into amblyopia. The difficulty lies more in detecting the condition, as children typically are unable to describe what is wrong. A tell-tale sign would be a child who seems to squint frequently, cover one eye with his hand, or tilt or turn his head abnormally, as well as frequently looking sideways.
However, when double vision occurs in an adult, immediate investigation is needed: the doctor needs to rule out the possibility of an aneurysm, tumor, or neurologic abnormality. In adults, double vision can be a symptom of serious underlying disorders that call for immediate attention and treatment. Fortunately, double vision is much easier to detect in adults, as they can describe exactly what they are seeing.
Typically, the doctor will need to confirm the case of your double vision, whether it is binocular or monocular. A series of tests will be done, such as checking for cataracts or other neurological disorders. He will also check which eye muscles are affected by the condition, and he does this by letting you follow his finger whether he moves it down, up, right, or left. The doctor will also typically request for computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of your brain to confirm if there is any sign of bleeding, trauma, blood vessel malformations, or tumor in the brain.
What exercises are there for treating double vision? Dr. William Bates developed a set of eye exercises back in the 1920s, known as the Eyerobics program. These exercises are intended to address most disorders of the eye, one of which is diplopia, by enhancing the function of both eye muscles while also relaxing them at the same time. When the eye muscles are improved, the eyes can start to learn to realign themselves.
In any case, whenever double vision occurs in adults, and does not seem to be transient, it is best to consult the doctor as soon as possible.