Diplopia: Seeing Double and Ghost Images

Diplopia means double vision which creates separate or overlapping images of the same object when you are supposed to be seeing only one. The less dominant image seen through diplopia is termed as “ghost image”.

Three types of diplopia include:

Monocular diplopia: Double vision that persists only in one eye when the other is closed.
Horizontal diplopia: Double vision where two images are separated horizontally.
Vertical diplopia: Double vision wherein one image looks higher than the other.


What Are the Causes of Diplopia?

Short-term double vision caused by overfatigue or drinking too much alcohol usually do not require immediate medical attention. However, if double vision persists for an extended time or keeps recurring, causes may include:

Refractive surgery. After undergoing LASIK, PRK, and other refractive surgeries, a person can experience minor double vision because of corneal changes that can cause light rays to scatter rather than focusing properly. Diplopia caused by refractive surgery normally clears up after a few weeks or months. However, a second laser vision correction might be needed for severe cases.
Eye problems. Some eye conditions such as cataracts, keratoconus, and dry eyes can cause diplopia.
Brain problems. Brain tumor, aneurysm, stroke, cranial nerve palsies, and other related conditions can cause diplopia due to loss of muscle coordination that controls the position and teaming of the eyes.


What Are the Treatments for Diplopia?

It is crucial to see an eye doctor immediately if you experience diplopia. Dependent on the cause, your eye doctor may be able to treat your doubling of vision immediately. Surgery, vision therapy, a prism in prescription glasses, or medications are the usual treatments for diplopia.

There are some cases where a double vision goes away after a long period of time which means that your brain has already suppressed one of the images. This may seem comfortable at first but it is actually not a good sign. Suppression could be masking a dangerous problem that requires immediate treatment.

In these cases, a period of adjustment may be needed to help you cope with the symptoms. Other temporary treatments for diplopia may include eye patches or special contact lenses.

Keep in mind that the sudden onset of diplopia may be a matter of life or death, such as a brain tumor or aneurysm. Make sure to visit your eye doctor immediately if you experience double vision or “ghost images” unexpectedly.

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