Diplopia is more commonly known as double vision. It can be caused from a defect in the functioning of the extraocular muscles. Diplopia may also be caused from a nerve disorder that stimulates the muscles. It can be one of the hardest visual problems that a person has to endure. Diplopia causes a person to see two images instead of one, or to see things extremely blurry. Reading, walking, and going about everyday activities can become very difficult to perform.
Double vision is normally a symptom of the disorder strabismus, which is a misalignment in both eyes, a.k.a. crossed eyes. However, not everyone who suffers from strabismus experiences the problem of double vision. Those who suffer from this disorder have a paralysis of at least one muscle that causes movement of the eye to be somewhat impaired. The eyes may turn inward, outward, or even in opposite directions. A tumor or a blood clot may also cause double vision to occur, as can an abnormal growth on or in the eyelid.
When a child has strabismus, they will typically learn to suppress the second image that they see, so they do not see double. While this is a temporary solution, a child that continually does this will likely cause poor vision in that eye. Strabismus should be checked immediately by an eye doctor so that work can be done to correct the problem. Surgery or prescription glasses may be the cure.
Adults who develop diplopia will need to be seen immediately, even if it means a trip to the nearest emergency room. Double vision in adults can be a symptom of a tumor or aneurysm, or other severe medical emergency. Diplopia can also occur from a head trauma or other accident that involves a head or brain injury. Extreme fatigue, drug and alcohol use can also lead to temporary double vision problems. In these cases, a simple good night’s sleep is usually enough to get rid of the problem.
A doctor will evaluate the eyes with one eye open at a time, and then both eyes open. When this disorder occurs in both the eyes, then the doctor will see how strongly the eye muscles can move around the patients eyeball. Doctors will also have the patient roll their eyes in circles, without moving their head, and cover each eye with a small red lens. This helps see if there is a weakness related to the muscles that are responsible for the eyes’ movements.
The treatment of double vision usually starts with vision therapy and prisms in a person’s eyeglasses, as well as medication. Patching the offending eye can work for some people, as can wearing specially- made prescription contact lens. Fogging a part of a person’s eyeglass frames may also help correct diplopia. A complete eye exam should be performed to determine the best course of action. Often a person with this condition will be sent to see a specialist. It is not recommended to just deal with the problem, as suppressing the double images can lead to more serious vision problems down the road. This could go as far as the brain shutting down the eye’s vision entirely to compensate the other eye.