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Why Am I Seeing Double? -- Causes and
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Last updated March 16, 2017 (originally published October 16, 2011)

By Alison Turner, Contributing Columnist

Seeing double can make you panic --- vision is one of our most
prized senses, so essential  that we more often than not take it for
granted.  But, it may surprise you to know, that  visual impairment is
relatively common, and so is double vision.  The Centers for Disease
and Control (CDC) report that 14 million Americans over the age of
12 suffer from vision problems.   What causes us to see double? Are
there any foods, herbs or other natural remedies for double or blurry
vision? And when is double vision a symptom of a serious illness or

Whether your eye troubles are caused by  diseases or age, taking
action now can save you from permanent damage to your eyes in
many cases. In fact, the CDC reports that out of the 14 million
affected Americans, “more than 11 million Americans could have
improved their vision to 20/40 or better with refractive correction.”
That's over 78% of all cases.

So, if you're seeing double --- take heart. The problem is generally

For those 12% of cases of double or blurred vision that are more
difficult, we have scoured research studies from around the world to
identify  the causes and, where available, the cures.  

The list below contains 10 of the most common conditions that may
be behind your doubled, blurry or spotty vision:

Top 10 Causes of Double or Blurry Vision

1.        Graves Disease.  Graves disease is a disorder marked by over
activity of the thyroid gland, also known as

Your thyroid gland is in front of your neck and releases hormones
that control metabolism, thereby regulating mood, weight, and
energy levels.

Graves disease in general (not necessarily affecting the eyes) is
caused by an irregular response from the immune system that results
in hyperthyroidism, leading to several symptoms such as sweating,
high blood pressure, irritability, weight loss, and loss of hair.

The University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center  explains that Graves
disease often targets eye muscles and surrounding connective
tissues.  Graves eye disease, or thyroid eye disease, is thus a more
specific condition of Graves disease, of which nearly one million
Americans are diagnosed every year.  Women are 5 times more likely
than men to be affected, and smokers have an increased risk for
Graves disease as well.  You might recall that former President
George Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush have Graves disease.

In addition to double vision, symptoms of Graves disease include
swelling around the eye, dry eyes, sensitivity to light, and, in severe
cases, loss of vision.  Most people also experience bulging eyes, or
the retraction of the eyelids that causes the appearance of bulging

The University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center notes that treatments
include, “medications to suppress the production of hormone by the
thyroid gland, radioactive iodine to eliminate hormone-producing
cells, and surgery to remove the thyroid tissue.”  Once the thyroid
function returns to normal the eye must continue to be monitored,
and patients may need to apply eye drops, gels or ointments, and use
eye covers or tape at night.  Surgical decompression could be an
option in order to return the eye to its proper position. (Read more
Graves disease.)

High blood pressure.  Does high blood pressure make you see
double? Does it cause blurred vision? The answer, according to
medical authorities, is "yes".

Blood pressure is the measure of force with which blood pushes
against the walls of arteries as the heart pumps blood.  The National
Heart Lung and Blood Institute reports that 1 in 3 American adults
has high blood pressure – and while many of these people do not
currently experience symptoms, the condition can lead to serious
damage throughout the body later in life. (
What should your blood
pressure be at various stages of your life? Learn more.)

One of the possible consequences of high blood pressure is blurry or
impaired vision or, in severe cases, blindness.  The National Heart
Lung and Blood Institute explains that high blood pressure could
cause blood vessels in the eye to burst or bleed, thereby affecting

In most cases a healthy level of blood pressure is maintained through
life style choices.  A diet low in salt and alcohol and high in exercise
are good places to begin.  For those who cannot control their blood
pressure via lifestyle choices, there are medication options. (Read
more about
natural remedies that help to lower your blood pressure.)

Diabetes.    Diabetes can cause blurred vision. People with
long term diabetes may experience damage to the eye’s retina, the
tissue at the back of the inner eye that changes light entering the eye
into nerve signals for the brain. This condition is  known as "diabetic

The U.S. National Library of Medicine posts that diabetic retinopathy
is “the leading cause of blindness in working-age Americans” and
that almost everyone who has had diabetes for more than thirty
years will show signs of retina damage. In addition to blurred vision
and vision loss, symptoms include floaters (see below), and trouble
seeing at night.

Worldwide, more than one-third of all the 285 million diabetics have
diabetic retinopathy, according to 2015 study led by scientists from
the Singapore Eye Research Institute and the National University of

Many people who have diabetic retinopathy do not show symptoms
until the damage is quite severe, which is why it is crucial for people
with diabetes to have  regular eye exams.  While treatments can
usually not reverse damage, the worsening of symptoms can be
prevented with various forms of eye surgery, and there are drugs
available that prevent the growth of abnormal blood vessels. (Read
more about
foods that help to control your blood sugar levels.)

Multiple Sclerosis.  Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease
that attacks the central nervous system (the brain, the spinal cord
and optic nerves).  The National Multiple Sclerosis Society explains
that the precise cause of MS is not known, but that most scientists
believe it arises from a combination of immunity, genetics and
environment – MS seems to occur more frequently farther away from
the equator.  Studies are currently in process, as the disease affects
400,000 Americans with 200 people diagnosed every week, and
more than 2.1 million people in the world.

Symptoms of MS arise from the damage done to myelin (a layer
around the nerves) and the nerve fibers themselves in the central
nervous system, thus interfering with communication with the rest of
the body.  This disruption of nerve signals produces symptoms that
range from mild (numbness in the limbs) to severe (paralysis or loss
of vision), some of which come and go and some of which remain

But the very first symptom you may experience with MS are problems
with your eyes.  

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society cautions that “A vision
problem is the first symptom of MS for many people. The sudden
onset of double vision, poor contrast, eye pain, or heavy blurring is
frankly terrifying-and the knowledge that vision may be compromised
can make people with MS anxious about the future.”    

Effects to the eye include optic neuritis (inflammation of the optic
nerve that produces blurred vision in one eye or a dark spot in the
field of vision), uncontrolled eye movements, and double vision.  
Double vision (diplopia) occurs when the muscles controlling eye
movement are not coordinated because they have weakened.  

Visual symptoms from MS rarely result in total blindness.  
Furthermore, in the case of double vision it is usually resolved
without treatment.  While there is no cure for MS in general, there
are strategies (combinations of drugs and physical therapy) to
manage flare ups, the course of the disease, and the symptoms.

Presbyopia.  The lens of the eye changes its shape to focus on
objects at different distances, an ability that is labeled the elasticity of
the lens.  This elasticity slowly decreases with age, generally around
the age of 45, so that the lens can no longer focus on nearby
objects. Age-induced loss of elasticity that naturally affects everyone
is called presbyopia.

The National Institutes of Health  notes that presbyopia is oftentimes
first realized when those above 45 struggle with reading material.  
Other symptoms include headache and eyestrain.  While there is not
an end-all cure for this condition, it can usually be corrected with
glasses, contact lens, or bifocals.

Cataracts.  Under ideal conditions, the lens of the eye is clear
enough to function like the lens of a camera and focus the light that
passes into the eye.  

But often, around the age of 60, proteins in the lens break down so
that the lens itself becomes cloudy and blurs images, produces
double vision, or creates an appearance of halos around lights; by 75
most people’s lens’s are cloudy enough to affect their vision– in
other words, they have a cataract.

The National Institutes of Health  advises that certain medical
conditions may help to increase the likelihood or intensity of
cataracts, such as diabetes, genetics, smoking, or too much exposure
to sunlight – though in many cases the cause is unknown.  

Treatment strategies for cataracts include improving the prescription
of eyeglasses, wearing sunglasses, and when possible improving the
lighting in your surroundings.  It is possible to surgically remove a
cataract, but this is generally reserved for extreme cases.

Floaters.  Floaters appear as their name would suggest, as
moving specks in your field of vision.  They may look like spots,
strands or squiggly lines, always small, dark and shadowy.  Floaters
move with your eyes, then seemingly zip away when you try to look
at them directly.

The National Eye Institute (NEI)  explains that floaters are caused by
the shrinking of the gel-like substance that fills nearly 80 percent of
the eye, helping the eye to maintain its round shape.  When this gel
shrinks it becomes stringy with strands, the shadows of which can be
seen upon the retina.

The NEI assures that “floaters are part of the natural aging process,”
and are not necessarily dangerous – just annoying.  Most people are
able to ignore them, and they may “settle” at the bottom of the eye
below the line of sight.  

If you are able to ignore floaters, any sort of treatment is not
recommended.  If, however, you feel that these shadows have
become numerous enough to affect your vision, they may be
removed surgically – though must eye surgeons are reluctant to
recommend this procedure because of its potential complications,
such as retinal detachment or tears. (Read more about
causes and
cures for eye floaters.)

Giant cell arteritis (GCA).  Also known as temporal arteritis,
giant cell arteritis (GCA) is the name for the inflammation of the walls
of medium and large-sized arteries.  This inflammation restricts blood
flow, which may cause pain or more serious complications.   GCA
incidents, the cause of which are unknown, are very low in people
ages 50 and younger, then increase dramatically with every
subsequent decade – the median age of onset is 75.

In 2008 Dr. Aki Kawasaki with the Department of Neuro-optholmolgy
at the Hôpital Ophtalmique Jules Gonin in Switzerland and Dr. Valerie
Purvin at the Departments of Ophthalmology and Neurology, Midwest
Eye Institute and Indiana University, published an updated review on
GCA, in which they report that double vision (diplopia) occurs in up
to 21% of GCA cases.   

Drs. Kawasaki and Purvin stress the need for expert familiarity with
the connection between eye disorders and GCA, as “visual symptoms
may be the first or sole manifestation of GCA.”   Furthermore,
“prompt initiation of steroids remains the most effective means for
preventing potentially devastating ischaemic  [reduced blood supply]
complications” so that proper diagnosis can be crucial to successful
alleviation of symptoms.

9.        Glaucoma. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) defines glaucoma as “a group of diseases that can damage the
eye's optic nerve and result in vision loss and blindness.”   This most
often occurs when the fluid pressure inside the eye rises (either
slowly or suddenly).

But there is good news. As the Centers for Disease Control notes,
“with early treatment, you can often protect your eyes against
serious vision loss.”  Treatment generally strives to reduce eye
pressure, done with either dye drops, pills, laser treatment or

Astigmatism.  The American Optometric Association
summarizes that “Astigmatism occurs due to the irregular shape of
the cornea or the lens inside the eye.”  This makes vision blurry or
out of focus at a distance because “The cornea and lens are primarily
responsible for properly focusing light entering your eyes allowing
you to see things clearly.”

The American Optometric Association reports that though
astigmatism is a “very common vision condition,” its specific cause is

Astigmatism may follow an eye injury or surgery, and is possibly
hereditary, and can worsen over time.  Treatment ranges from
contact lenses to reshaping the cornea with a series of rigid lenses,
to laser surgery.

Intercranial Hypertension. Build up of fluid in your brain can be
caused by excessive weight or obesity, and this fluid can result in
intercranial hypertension. Intercranial hypertension is a leading cause
of double vision. Here are the
recommended remedies for intercranial

Why Are Eyes So Sensitive to Light?

How High Blood Pressure Affects Your Eyes

Why Am I Seeing Double?-Causes and Cures

Intercranial Hypertension - A Leading Cause of Double Vision

What to Eat for Healthy Eyes

Stop Night Blindness-Vitamin A Deficiency and Foods That Help

The Whites of Your Eyes-Natural Remedies for Red, Yellow Brown  
and Gray Discolored Eyes

Why Do I Blink So Much?-Causes and Top 8 Natural Remedies
Why Are My Eyes Burning?

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