Double Vision (Diplopia)
Double vision, or diplopia, is a symptom to take seriously. Some causes of diplopia are relatively minor, but others need urgent medical attention. WebMD takes a look at the causes, symptoms, and treatments for double vision.
What Causes Double Vision?
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Opening your eyes and seeing a single, clear image is something you probably take for granted. But that seemingly automatic process depends on the orchestration of multiple areas of the vision system. They all need to work together seamlessly:
Problems with any part of the vision system can lead to double vision. It makes sense to consider the causes of diplopia according to the part of the visual system that has the problem. Double vision is not normal and should be reported promptly.
Cornea problems. Problems with the cornea often cause double vision in one eye only. Covering the affected eye makes the double vision go away. The damaged surface of the eye distorts incoming light, causing double vision. Damage can happen in several ways:
Lens problems. Cataracts are the most common problem with the lens that causes double vision. If cataracts are present in both eyes, images from both eyes will be distorted. Cataracts are often correctable with minor surgery.
Muscle problems. If a muscle in one eye is weak, that eye can't move smoothly with the healthy eye. Gazing in directions controlled by the weak muscle causes double vision. Muscle problems can result from several causes:
Nerve problems. Several different conditions can damage the nerves and lead to double vision:
Brain problems. The nerves controlling the eyes connect directly to the brain. Further visual processing takes place inside the brain. Many different causes for double vision originate in the brain. They include:
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