Double vision, or diplopia, occurs when a person sees two images instead of one. Performing certain eye exercises may be able to reduce double vision in some cases.
When a person has double vision, the images they see may overlap, be separate, appear tilted, or be a combination of the three. Double vision is binocular if it affects both eyes or monocular if it affects one eye.
Certain conditions that cause double vision may improve when a person performs eye exercises. A person should speak with their doctor to see if doing eye exercises could help ease their double vision. They should also speak with a doctor to find out the cause of their double vision.
Keep reading for details on four exercises to try for reducing double vision, as well as some information on the causes and when to contact a doctor.
Although eye exercises cannot help with every cause of double vision, the following exercises may help reduce symptoms for people who have convergence insufficiency.
This occurs when the eyes do not move together in unison when looking at objects at a close distance. This is due to the muscles controlling the eyes not bringing the eyes together enough.
The following exercises may prove beneficial to those with convergence insufficiency.
A person should try the following exercises three to four times per day for a maximum of 2 minutes each time.
1. Pen-to-nose convergence
- Hold a pen or similar object at arm’s length and focus on it.
- Bring the object slowly toward the nose while trying to keep it as one image.
- As soon as the object begins to split into two images, stop moving it and try to focus on making them back into one image again.
- Once the object returns to being one image, move it closer toward the nose again.
- Repeat these steps until it is not possible to refocus the two images into one.
- At this point, return the object to its original position and restart the exercise.
The goal of this exercise is for the person to be able to focus on the object comfortably while it is close to the nose.
2. Jump convergence
- Start by holding a pen or similar object in one hand while looking into the distance.
- Holding the object at arm’s length, bring the object into the line of sight.
- Refocus the eyes onto the object for a few seconds, then look back into the distance.
- Repeat these steps, bringing the object closer each time before looking at it and focusing on keeping it as a single image.
The purpose of this exercise is to help a person maintain single vision while switching between objects nearby and far away.
3. Dot card
For this exercise, a person will need a dot card from their orthoptist or doctor. A dot card is a piece of paper with dots down the middle at fixed intervals.
- Hold the card so that one end is touching the tip of the nose, tilting it down slightly.
- Focus on the dot that is the farthest away.
- Move the focus onto the next dot along, concentrating on keeping it as a single image.
- Hold focus on this dot for 10 seconds.
- Keep moving to the next dot along the card, gradually getting closer to the nose. If the dot becomes doubled, go back to the previous dot and try again.
As a person moves along the card, the dots before and after the one they are focusing on become double. This doubling of the image is normal and should not be concerning.
The aim of this exercise is to get to a point where the person can focus on the dot closest to the nose without it becoming two images.
To do this exercise, a person will need a stereogram from an orthoptist or doctor. A stereogram is a picture with two incomplete images on it that can overlap to form one complete image.
- Hold the stereogram at arm’s length in one hand.
- In the other hand, hold a pen or similar object in front of the stereogram.
- Concentrate on the top of the object, then slowly move it toward the nose.
- While focusing on the top of the object, be aware of the stereogram in the background.
- As the object gets closer to the nose, the stereogram should appear to split into two images.
- Once the object is about halfway toward the nose, the two split images should overlap to form a third image.
After a person has performed these eye exercises, it is important that they allow their eyes to relax. They can rest their eyes by closing them for a minute or by looking into the distance.
There are many conditions that can cause a person to experience double vision. These include:
- a squint, which causes the eyes to look in different directions
- problems with the shape of the cornea, such as keratoconus
- a refractive error, such as astigmatism
- corneal scarring
- a dislocated lens
- paralysis of the nerves that control the muscles that move the eye
- myasthenia gravis, which is an autoimmune condition that causes muscle weakness
- botulism, which is a serious illness caused by toxins that attack the nerves of the body
- Guillain-Barré syndrome, which is a condition that causes muscle weakness
- trauma to the head, eye socket, or eye muscles
- Graves’ disease, which is an autoimmune condition that causes hyperthyroidism, which causes a buildup of tissue behind the eyes
- dry eyes
- a brain tumor
- a stroke
- inflammation or eye infection
- multiple sclerosis
- convergence insufficiency, wherein the eyes do not move together when looking at things at a close distance
However, eye exercises can only help with certain causes of double vision. For example, these exercises may not improve double vision that is not related to eye muscle issues.
Although double vision is not usually serious, a person experiencing it should speak with their doctor to find out what is causing it. The doctor can perform some eye tests and refer the person to an eye specialist, if required.
The treatment a person receives for double vision will depend on the cause. The doctor will be able to speak with a person about which treatment option is best suited for them.
A person should seek immediate medical attention if they have sudden double vision or if double vision occurs alongside:
- speech or language problems
- difficulty swallowing
- difficulty walking
- a headache
- eye pain
- bulging of the eyes
- a recent head injury
Although double vision is not usually serious, many conditions can cause it.
A person who has double vision due to convergence insufficiency may be able to relieve it by performing certain eye exercises.
Anyone who has double vision, even if it is only temporary, should contact a doctor to determine the cause. Anyone who experiences double vision along with any other worrying symptoms should seek medical help immediately.