When an individual sees two things or two images of the same thing, they complain of seeing double and the medical term is diplopia. In order for the brain to see two things or two images of the same object, the eyes are not straight and each one is looking in a different direction. This misalignment of the eyes may be the result of an injury to the brain, a tumor, diabetes, an infection, injury to the muscles of the eye or injury to the bones around the eye. The result is eyes that are misaligned and not looking at the same object at the same time. Sometimes the eyes are straight when looking in one direction, but because of a nerve or muscle weakness they are not straight when looking in another direction and the patient sees double in that direction.
No matter what the cause, the eyes are not straight when diplopia is present and the condition is very difficult for the patient to deal with and function.
If the misalignment is small, prisms can sometimes be used to produce an alignment of the eyes so that they are both looking at the same thing and eliminate the double vision.
If the misalignment is larger or if the eyes are misaligned a different amount when the patient looks in different directions, then eye muscle surgery is the only way to re-establish ocular alignment and attempt to eliminate the double vision or diplopia.
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