What is double vision?

Double vision, also known as diplopia, occurs when you see objects duplicated in your vision rather than a single clear representation of each object. Double vision may be temporary or permanent. Double vision can be due to a number of different events or conditions ranging in severity from a minor concern to one that is serious or life threatening. The dual images can appear horizontally, vertically, or at a tilted angle.

Double vision may originate as a problem in one eye or both. Covering one eye eliminates true diplopia, whereas persistence of multiple images with just one eye (monocular diplopia) is usually caused by problems with the eye’s optical system. For example, corneal scarring or cataract may split or double the image you perceive.

A major cause of double vision involving both eyes is misalignment of the eyes such that they cannot focus equally on an object. An eye muscle imbalance or refractive (eyeglass) problem can be responsible. This type of double vision can occur in young children whose eyes are misaligned from birth. Infants don’t tolerate diplopia and the brain involuntary shuts off vision in one eye (amblyopia: a healthy eye that does not see). Diplopia can also occur later in life if injury or disease affects the ability of the eye muscles to work together properly. For example, alcohol intoxication can result in temporary double vision. Serious causes of double vision include brain tumors, stroke and multiple sclerosis, a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord causing weakness, coordination, balance difficulties, and other problems.

Because the causes of double vision are so varied and can range from minor to life threatening, it is important to contact your health care provider promptly for diagnosis of your double vision and treatment of the underlying cause.

Occasionally double vision can be a sign of a medical emergency. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you experience double vision along with other serious symptoms, including sudden loss of or change in vision, sudden loss of coordination, change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness, severe headache, sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body, or eye pain.

Seek prompt medical care for diagnosis of the underlying cause of your double vision, or if your symptom of double vision is persistent or recurrent.


What other symptoms might occur with double vision?

Double vision may accompany other symptoms, which will vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.

Other eye or vision symptoms that may occur along with double vision

Double vision may accompany other symptoms affecting the eye or vision including:

  • Abnormal pupils
  • Blurred vision
  • Droopy eyelids
  • Dry eyes Read more about double visionsymptoms


What causes double vision?

Double vision may be caused by a variety of underlying conditions or diseases. Some of these conditions, such as cataracts, are fairly common, particularly in older populations, while others may be serious or life threatening in nature. It may appear in only one eye as a result of refractive errors that split or double ... Read more about double visioncauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Eyes and Vision

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