Thursday, September 16, 2010
ROCHESTER, Minn. — Seeing double is more than disorienting and can be the sign of a serious underlying health concern. The September issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter recommends that new or unexplained double vision — seeing two images of a single object — warrants visiting a doctor as soon as possible. Double vision (diplopia) can originate in one or both eyes. The underlying cause can range from cataracts, a clouding of the eye's lens, to a brain tumor.
Monocular is the term for double vision that originates in one eye and persists with a "ghost image" when the other eye is closed. Common causes for monocular double vision include irregularity in the thin film that keeps the eye's surface moist; irregularity of the eye's cornea or other lens abnormality; scarring of the cornea; a swelling or mass in the eyelid pressing on the eye's clear covering; or a cataract, which scatters the light as it passes through the lens and prevents proper focusing. Generally, an ophthalmologist manages treatment for monocular double vision.
Binocular double vision originates in both eyes. (However, the double vision stops when either eye is closed.) Binocular double vision suggests that the eyes may be poorly aligned or that a possibly serious underlying medical issue may be present. It can be related to any of several conditions that affect the nerves, such as diabetes; hypertension; multiple sclerosis; brain injury; Grave's disease, a disorder of the thyroid gland; or myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune disorder.
A sudden onset of double vision also may indicate a serious concern such as tumor, stroke or ruptured blood vessel in the brain (aneurysm.) Emergency medical care is necessary if sudden head pain occurs with double vision. These symptoms may be associated with infection or a tumor in the head. Identifying the underlying disorder and treating it may resolve the double vision.
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