Diplopia (Double Vision)

Reviewed by Lindsey B. De Lott, M.D.

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What Is Diplopia?

Diplopia, or double vision, is a condition where a single object is seen in duplicate.

Double and blurred vision are often thought to be the same, but they are not. In blurred vision, a single image seen by one eye appears unclear.

Symptoms

  • Eyes wander or appear "crossed" or misaligned
  • Double vision

The symptoms described above may not necessarily mean that you have diplopia. However, if you experience one or more of these symptoms, contact your ophthalmologist for a complete exam.

Causes

Diplopia 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.

Diplopia 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.

Risk Factors

There are many causes of diplopia and risk factors depend on the underlying cause.

Tests and Diagnosis

A complete eye exam is necessary to determine the cause of diplopia. This includes a complete medical history, assessment of visual acuity, eye motility, and evaluation for ocular misalignment. Additional testing, such as MRI or CT scan and blood tests, may be necessary depending on the cause of diplopia.

Treatment and Drugs

Treatment of double vision depends on the underlying cause and may consist of eye patching, prisms, eye exercises, surgical straightening of the eye, or a combination of these options. Therapy is aimed at realigning the misaligned eye where possible without surgery and restimulating the part of the visual pathway to the brain that is not working correctly.

Certain rare causes of diplopia may be treated with medication. Your ophthalmologist will decide if your type of diplopia is likely to respond to medicine.

Clinic Information

For more information, see the Neuro-Ophthalmology Clinic and the complete Clinic Services listing of the U-M Kellogg Eye Center.

Last Modified: Wednesday, 19-Feb-2014 08:42:43 EST