When someone with diplopia looks at an object, what do they see? If you know that this Latin-derived word breaks down into dipl- (which means “double”) and -opia (vision), then you probably have a clue. For parents, double vision in kids can be a worrisome condition, and in some cases, that worry is well-founded.
Imagine growing up seeing double all the time. Would you be able to concentrate on school? Math and reading would be pretty difficult if you had extra numbers and letters floating around in front of you.
But it’s not all bad news. If you are concerned that your child has diplopia, or if your child has already been diagnosed, these facts may reassure you.
Is It Permanent?
First, let’s get one thing straight—diplopia does not need to be permanent. With the right diagnosis, treatment, and management, double vision in kids can improve over time. Whether the cause is strabismus, amblyopia, or another common reason for double vision in children, your child’s double vision need not last forever.
How Do I Know if My Child Has Diplopia?
An eye doctor hasn’t diagnosed your child with double vision, but you suspect that they might suffer from this condition. Does this sound like you? If so, here are a few signs you should schedule an ophthalmologist appointment:
- Often has to cover one eye to see properly
- Squints frequently
- Complains about pain in one or both eyes
- Has recurring headaches
- Rubs their eyes constantly
- Less ability to focus on people or objects in front of them
- Often bumps into objects when they walk around
- Trouble following moving objects with their eyes
There Are Two Types of Double Vision
Doctors classify diplopia in two ways: monocular diplopia and binocular diplopia.
Monocular diplopia occurs when a patient sees double in a single eye. Possible causes of monocular double vision include:
- A dislocated lens
- Dry eye
Binocular diplopia, on the other hand, occurs when the eyes are misaligned. If the patient covers one of their eyes and the double vision stops, they have some form of binocular diplopia, which is more common than the monocular type. When one or more of the muscles that control the direction of the eye do not function as they should, binocular double vision occurs. Here are some common conditions that cause it:
- Myasthenia gravis
- Graves’ disease
- Facial trauma
What Causes Double Vision in Kids?
We’ve briefly covered some of the conditions that can cause both monocular and binocular diplopia, but let’s get a little more in depth.
Your cornea is the clear, outermost layer of your eye. It helps protect against germs, dust, dirt, and any other particles that causes irritation or damage. But when disease or injury affects the shape of your cornea, it can block or warp light as it enters your eye. Astigmatism is one condition where your cornea is shaped irregularly, and can lead to double vision.
Eye Muscle Weakness
There are 6 muscles that control your eye movements and ensure that they work in coordination. If one of these muscles is weak or paralyzed, your eyes may be misaligned. Eye muscle weakness is a symptom in conditions such as Graves’ disease or strabismus (“lazy eye”).
Graves’ disease is a thyroid disorder that affects your eyes and the tissues surrounding it. If your optic muscles swell up, they can exert lots of pressure on your optic nerves and cause double vision.
Strabismus is also known as a “lazy eye” condition. Since each eye may be looking in a different direction, they communicate two different images to your brain and often lead to double vision.
Certain parts of your brain are responsible for your vision. Any damage to those areas can lead to double vision in kids. Damage can come through injuries or conditions like:
However, you should know that visual irregularities are common with children—and often not caused by tumors.
Nerves connect your brain to your eye muscles to properly control movement. Certain conditions can harm these nerves:
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Parkinson’s disease
Without Treatment, Double Vision in Kids Can Lead to Blindness
When binocular diplopia occurs over a long time, the brain tries to compensate. Double vision can be detrimental to safety and survival, so when a patient does not seek treatment to correct the condition causing it, the brain simply ignores the stimuli entering one of the eyes. In other words, the brain may suppress or “turn off” vision in one of the eyes to prevent injury.
However, with the proper treatment, the patient will be able to regain vision in the suppressed eye again.
You Have Treatment Plan Options
The treatment plan options available to your child depend on what is causing their diplopia. For example, astigmatism is easily treatable with prescription contact lenses. Surgery may be required in some instances, as with cataracts and muscle dysfunction. Double vision in children caused by strabismus is treatable with prescription glasses and therapy, though in some cases it may also require surgery.
The bottom line is that to treat your child’s double vision, you first need to get an accurate diagnosis. Let us help you get to the bottom of your child’s vision problem so that you can set them up for success in life.