Colchester Eye Centre
Colchester Primary Care Centre
01206 487 100
Double vision, the common name for diplopia, is seeing two images of the same object instead of one for some or all of the time. The two images may be vertically separated (one on top of the other), horizontally separated (side by side) or a combination of both.
Although we see with two eyes, we normally have single vision, meaning we see only one image of an object. This is because our brain can normally control the muscles that move each eye so that both are pointing accurately at the object being looked at. When each eye produces its own image, the brain then joins them together into one. This gives us what is called binocular single vision.
Binocular double vision occurs when eyes are no longer able to work together as a pair because some of the muscles that control the eyes are weak or damaged. The eyes become out of alignment with each other. This may happen suddenly or over a period of time. This type of double vision will stop if either eye is covered.
This weakness or damage can be caused by a number of conditions. General investigations may need to be carried out to try to find the cause of the double vision.
Treatment for double vision will depend on the cause. If the double vision is present most of the time, it may be possible to use a Fresnel prism (a special transparent plastic sheet) fitted onto spectacles to join the images. It is possible to obtain a pair of plain glass spectacles for use if the patient does not normally wear any.
Where Fresnel prisms are not successful, it may be necessary to cover one eye in order to block out one of the double images, at least temporarily.
People with double vision should avoid driving or operating machinery, at least until they have adapted to wearing a prism or patch over one eye. It is illegal to drive with constant double vision.
Double vision may gradually get better with time. If full recovery does not occur, prisms can be incorporated into a spectacle correction, or surgery to correct the double vision may be considered.
For more information, visit the NHS Double Vision webpage.
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