Read below about double vision, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your double vision from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Double Vision Symptoms

Double vision means you are seeing two overlapping images instead of a single normal image. These images may overlap on top of each other or may appear side to side. Double vision is also known as diplopia or ocular misalignment [1].

Double vision symptoms and characteristics:

  • Squinting.
  • Trying to look sideways at objects.
  • Covering one eye with a hand.
  • Eyes that "wander," appearing misaligned as though looking in different directions.
  • Eyes that appear to be crossed.
  • It may occur only in one eye (monocular) or in both eyes (binocular).
  • With monocular double vision, your images may "ghost" and appear to be only slightly separated.

Double vision duration:

  • Your double vision may come and go.
  • It may happen only when looking in a particular direction.
  • It may be constant.
  • In some cases, it may resolve on its own.

Who is most often affected by double vision symptoms?

  • This condition can happen to anyone at any age.
  • Even young children can have double vision symptoms.

Are double vision symptoms serious?

  • Double vision interferes with quality of life.
  • It can make some activities – such as driving – very hazardous.
  • In rare cases, double vision may be a symptom of a brain injury, stroke, or tumor.
  • All of these are good reasons to have any episodes of double vision checked by a medical provider.

Double Vision Causes Overview

Many conditions can have double vision as a symptom. The most common are those involving weakened nerves or muscles within both eyes, or abnormalities of your retina or cornea within a single eye [2].

Binocular double vision causes:

  • Binocular double vision is the most common type. This means both eyes are involved. If either eye is closed or covered, your double vision goes away until they eye is opened or uncovered again.
  • Weakened or damaged nerves or muscles may allow your eyes to point in slightly different directions. Your brain is unable to resolve the two images and sees double instead.
  • In some cases, binocular double vision can have a serious neurologic cause.

Monocular double vision causes:

  • Monocular double vision is less common [3]. This means that only one eye is involved. If that eye is closed or covered – but not your other one – your double vision goes away until the eye is opened or uncovered again.
  • Nearsightedness within one eye.
  • Farsightedness within one eye.
  • Abnormalities of your cornea in one eye.
  • Abnormalities of your retina in one eye.
  • Monocular double vision almost never has a serious cause.

Physiological double vision causes:

  • This is the rarest type of double vision.
  • Objects in the background, out of your field of focus, may appear double.

Injury double vision causes:

  • A severe head injury, such as one caused by a fall or an automobile accident, may damage the nerves, muscles, or alignment involving one or both of your eyes.
  • A black eye, or injury to your face that causes bruising around your eye, is a common sports injury and may cause double vision in your injured eye.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Double Vision

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced double vision. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Age - Related Macular Degeneration

    Age-related macular degeneration is a disease of the macula, which is the part of the eye responsible for seeing objects clearly. It is the leading cause of vision loss in the United States.

    Lifelong

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    vision changes, blurry vision, difficulty transitioning from bright to dim environments, visual distortions, altered color perception
    Symptoms that always occur with age-related macular degeneration:
    vision changes
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Concussion (Mild Traumatic Brain Injury) Needing Imaging

    Mild traumatic brain injury requiring imaging is defined as being fairly responsive after an injury to the head but with enough warning signs that a imaging study of the inside of the skull such as a CT scan needs to be taken.

    Mild traumatic brain injuries have good outcomes if seen early enough by doctors. Delay can be dangerous.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    nausea or vomiting, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, sensitivity to light, frequent mood swings
    Symptoms that always occur with concussion (mild traumatic brain injury) needing imaging:
    head or face injury
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  3. 3.Cataract

    A cataract is clouding of the eye's lens that leads to decreased vision. It typically develops slowly over time.

    Resolves with surgery to remove the cataract

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    vision changes, blurry vision, sensitivity to light, double vision, altered color perception
    Symptoms that always occur with cataract:
    vision changes
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

    Double Vision Checker

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  4. 4.Traumatic Brain Injury

    Traumatic brain injury (TBI) happens when a bump, blow, jolt, or other head injury causes damage to the brain.

    Varies depending on severity

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    new headache, irritability, clear runny nose, vision changes, general numbness
    Symptoms that always occur with traumatic brain injury:
    head injury
    Urgency:
    Emergency medical service
  5. 5.Stroke or Tia (Transient Ischemic Attack)

    A stroke is a medical emergency. Strokes happen when blood flow to the brain is stopped.

    Indefinite

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    dizziness, leg numbness, arm numbness, new headache, stiff neck
    Symptoms that never occur with stroke or tia (transient ischemic attack):
    bilateral weakness
    Urgency:
    Emergency medical service
  6. 6.Concussion Not Needing Imaging

    A traumatic brain injury (TBI), or concussion, happens when a bump, blow, jolt, or other head injury causes damage to the brain. Every year, millions of people in the U.S. suffer brain injuries. More than half are bad enough that people must go to the hospital, and the worst injuries can lead to permanent brain damage or death.

    Most patients with mild brain injury recover within hours to days.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    dizziness, irritability, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping
    Symptoms that always occur with concussion not needing imaging:
    head or face injury
    Symptoms that never occur with concussion not needing imaging:
    recent fall from 6 feet or higher, severe vomiting, posttraumatic amnesia over 30 minutes, slurred speech, fainting, moderate vomiting
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Myasthenia Gravis (Over 50)

    Myasthenia Gravis is an autoimmune disease, where the immune system attacks the connection between nerves and muscles.

    Indefinite

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    weakness, general weakness, trouble swallowing, voice change, double vision
    Urgency:
    In-person visit

Double Vision Treatments and Relief

Seek immediate treatment in the emergency room or call 911 if double vision symptoms are accompanied by:

  • Memory loss.
  • Seizures.
  • Loss of sensation or movement in your arm or leg.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Inability to move one or both eyes.
  • Vision loss.
  • Blood appearing just beneath the surface of your eye.
  • In rare cases, double vision can be a symptom of a brain injury, tumor, or skull fracture.

Schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist (eye specialist) if double vision symptoms are accompanied by the following combinations of symptoms.

  • Fogged vision and difficulty with glare.
  • Swelling and protrusion of your eyes.
  • Eye pain, headache, nausea and vomiting, and seeing halos around lights.
  • A blind spot in the center of your field of vision.
  • Numbness and tingling in one arm, with speech difficulties.
  • Fatigue, increased thirst, and increased urination.
  • Severe headache with nausea, vomiting, and anxiety.
  • Fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and incoordination.
  • Headaches with eye strain.
  • A specialist can prescribe eyeglasses that compensate for double vision, as well as glasses to correct any other factors.
  • Surgery may be needed to remove cataracts, correct misalignment of your two eyes, or treat other conditions.
  • In some cases, medication may be needed to correct the underlying cause of your double vision symptoms.

Double vision remedies that you can do at home:

  • Eye exercises can help strengthen your ocular muscles.
  • You may choose to wear an opaque contact lens or an eyepatch over the eye that is most affected by double vision symptoms.

FAQs About Double Vision

Here are some frequently asked questions about double vision.

What causes double vision?

Double vision, or diplopia, is caused by dysfunction of the muscles that move the eye. There are many types of diplopia that correspond to dysfunction of different muscles of the eye. There are two types of double vision: double vision in which the images are side by side and double vision in which the images are on top of each other. Side by side images are are caused by poorly functioning muscles along the inside of the eye. Images above each other are caused by a poorly functioning medial or lateral rectus muscle. Please also see the list of diagnoses in the sections above.

What is monocular double vision?

Monocular double vision or monocular diplopia is due to an abnormality within one eye rather than the eye muscles. Usually, it is caused by an error in light refraction caused by abnormalities in the iris, lens, or fluid within the eye. It is best evaluated by an ophthalmologist and can be corrected with corrective lenses in some cases, surgery in other cases, and rarely, not at all.

What is binocular double vision?

Binocular double vision is caused by a defect in the muscles of the eye. It is split into roughly two categories, horizontal and vertical diplopia in which the muscles that move the eye in different directions cease to function adequately and the eyes do not align so their respective fields of vision are not complementary. This shows up as a break in the field of vision and two images next to each other in an individual's view.

Is nausea common when experiencing double vision?

Nausea can occur, but if double vision is chronic or long term it is uncommon. Usually diplopia from an imbalance in the inner ear or inability to coordinate eye movements may also cause nausea, however the nausea is not caused by diplopia.

When is double vision a sign of an eye disorder?

Double vision can occur following a blow to the eye that stuns the eye or the muscles of the eye. Usually this is transient and will disappear shortly after the injury. If double vision is persistent or accompanied by pain or blurry vision it may be a sign of an eye disorder. If there are bruises around the socket of the eye, blood within the eye, or a change in the arrangement of the iris (colored ring around the eye) or pupil (black center of the eye), then you should seek immediate medical care.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Double Vision

  • Q.Does light bother your eyes more than usual?
  • Q.Are you experiencing a headache?
  • Q.Have you ever been diagnosed with diabetes?
  • Q.Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our double vision symptom checker to find out more.

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Double Vision Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced double vision have also experienced:

    • 7% Headache
    • 6% Blurry Vision
    • 5% Dizziness
  • People who have experienced double vision were most often matched with:

    • 50% Concussion (Mild Traumatic Brain Injury) Needing Imaging
    • 25% Age - Related Macular Degeneration
    • 25% Cataract
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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References

  1. Focal Points - Excerpt: Evaluation and Management. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Published 2018. AAO Link.
  2. Alves M, Miranda A, Narciso MR, Mieiro L, Fonseca T. Diplopia: A Diagnostic Challenge with Common and Rare Etiologies. The American Journal of Case Reports. 2015;16:220-223. NCBI Link.
  3. Tan A, Faridah H. The Two-Minute Approach to Monocular Diplopia. Malaysian Family Physician. 2010;5(3):115-118. NCBI Link.
  4. Margolin E, Lam CTY. Approach to a Patient with Diplopia in the Emergency Department. Journal of Emergency Medicine. 2017;54(6):799-806. NCBI Link.
  5. Binocular Diplopia. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Published 2018. AAO Link.