Double Vision – Diplopia in Multiple Sclerosis

What is Diplopia (Double Vision)?
Updated 2/23/2012

Diplopia is more commonly known as “double vision” because that is exactly what you see, double everything! This is usually (but not always) caused by a lesion in the brain stem near the cranial nerves that control various eye muscles.

How to Treat Diplopia

Like optic neuritis, there is not much you can do to make the symptom go away besides wait, take , or Acthar to try to help relieve inflammation, however, there are ways to better cope with the symptom to make life a little easier. Most commonly used (for short term cases of double vision) is the simple eye patch. Double vision usually goes away when one eye is covered (since double vision is typically caused when your two eyes do not perfectly align properly) so an eye patch does just that (covers one eye) while allowing you to go about your day without keeping one hand over one eye. The only problem here (besides the undesirable pirate look) is that if you keep one eye covered for too long then it may grow weak in the sense that it will get used to not ever having to let light in so it’s best to switch the patch from eye to eye here and there.
something such as

What I did to allow light into my eye (while still blocking out visual information that contributed to my double vision) is I simply put a thin medical tape over one lens of my glasses. This tape was light and thin enough to let light through to my eye while keeping me from actually seeing anything with that eye. I still switched the tape from one lens to the other but not as often since it was a tad tricky to peel the tape up and re-tape to the opposite lens every time.

When Diplopia persists you can always go to an optometrist to get a prism lens put on your glasses to help realign your eyesight in hopes of correcting your double vision. Don’t worry, this is not some giant lens attachment that everyone will notice weighing down your glasses, you will not look like some cyborg, it basically looks like a simple piece of tape! Most of the time you can’t even see it without really looking for it!

My Experience

I have had double vision many times since the start of my MS but to be honest, it really didn’t start happening much at first, mostly not for a while after my actual diagnosis. I remember it going like this; I would wake up, the ceiling (which is all white) looked normal like any other morning, then I would sit up and notice things don’t look quite right in the room, once I stood, woke up, rubbed my eyes, and started walking around it would dawn on me, “I can’t really see what I am doing”. Like a camera slowly coming into focus my eyes would adjust but never into a crystal clear image, everything was kind of blurry, blurry but different, then I would realize, I see two of everything!
Typically at first I would find myself laying on the floor and staring at the light fixture on the ceiling, well, both of them. I would try to focus them together back into one single object but at the most I could just make the two fixtures I saw split further apart and that is it. I eventually learned about the eye patch and yes, it helped. I would put it on and suddenly there was just one of everything, it was nice except for having to tilt my head a bit left or right so that I could have a wider field of vision, plus, the strap did get itchy after a while of being pressed to my skin. That is when I decided to try the medical tape on one lens of my glasses, that was much better, again, it was a hassle but well worth it. My double vision would be so bad sometimes that I often found myself thinking “it would be easier to get around if I was 100% blind than when everything is doubled”. Sure, not knowing which of the 2 things you are staring at sucks, but no, it would not be better at all to be full out blind, but it did cross my mind in the middle of my misery.

17 Responses to Double Vision – Diplopia in Multiple Sclerosis

  1. Anonymous says:

    thank GAWD I don't have this!


  2. ggruiz11 says:

    This was one of my first symptoms and I made the mistakes of patching up one eye at all times and wouldn't alternate the patch and caused my right eye to develop amblyopia… but it wasn't permanent.

  3. Yeah I could feel after a while if I didnt switch the patch my eyes would feel…. weird… jaja

  4. Anonymous says:

    I just found this page – just diagnosed last week. 7 weeks ago I started having double vision. Not having any other symptoms. The ophthalmologist chalked it up to an "isolated" event. He gave me a prism (had to buy some glass frames since I don't wear any) which helped enormously. Driving with 1 eye covered was too challenging for me. 7 weeks later and I only need it to see things in the distance and to drive. My diagnosis came after experiencing tingling and received abnormal MRI results.

  5. I always wanted that lens, the tape is lame! My vision just changes too much and I can not afford separate frames nor do I want to keep going in to switch them out so I just deal with the patch and tape….

  6. Anonymous says:

    I was diagnosed with permanent diplopia in 2005 and have prisms in my reg. glasses. Have ocassional optic pain (knife) in eyes, causes me to yell, cry. My day starts with blurry vision. Thinking back I have had thousands of 'weak knees', where I start to fall down for so many years I don't remember when it started (I am OLD). Last few years have developed ataxia, look like I drink a lot. I have dysarthria, can't move my mouth/tongue to form words. Thank God that is very intermittent and seems less frequent now. On Baclofen for thighs feeling tight, painful. On Dilantin for seizures, have broken foot, elbow and dislocate shoulder often. Been to ER for paresthesia (red, hot and numb). Daily paresthesias of 'worms' under my skin, some visible spasms in face for hours, others all over like bugs. I have poor coordination and often knock over small items. My upper arms are always bruised from 'walking' into doorways. I see them, I just can't figure out my space while moving. No wonder people stare at me in stores. I feel like an overaged poster child with most all of the ms symptoms. I am afraid of the Baclofen pump don't want my spine messed up more. I was in a bad head on collison in 2003 and lower vertebrae fractured. Chiropractic visits (2 per week) keep me able to stand up if my thighs cooperate. Oh well, I do understand the vision problems, it is so annoying without my glasses to see a 2 headed man (husband) walking towards me if I am laying down without glasses. I tried wearing glasses for naps but broke 2 pairs of frames. You get used to diplopia and just have to think before reaching for things or getting upset at too many clocks, vents, lamps etc.

  7. I could not do it… I could probably get used to it but I would be so depressed all the time… So, do you have MS? If mot have you SEEN an MS specialist???

  8. Anonymous says:

    I have been to 2 neuros, Dr. Chan and Dr. Chen, hmm, hard to get them to understand all my symptoms, and last dr. would NOT review records I took to him,. To be honest I was sent there for seizures, but I asked about ms, since his exam room was littered with prof. mags on it. I told him about all my symptoms. He told me to go get my blood tested and check my electrolytes. Thanks for your responses to everyone, we need help from each other since doctors are failing our needs. Having trouble reading the words and numbers to type in to post. Thank good for magnifying glass.

  9. "go get my blood tested and check my electrolytes" for what? NOT MS of course… UGH….

  10. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for your remarks. They were comical at some points and made me feel a whole lot better about having double vision!

  11. That's what you have to do! Take it one hour at a time an laugh at everything you can!

  12. Rhian says:

    Experiencing double vision for the 1st time and your suggestion about taping up glasses has been a godsend. I had struggled dealing with the vision problems but as soon as I tried the glasses everything became more bearable – thank you! I also gave this page to my nearest and dearest to read as the photos really illustrated what I was seeing to them & helped them understand a little.

  13. Glad I could help some! So hard to explain stuff like this to people, the photo hardly does any justice.

  14. This was my first major symptom about 3 years ago, I say major because it was not noted as MS. Now being only diagnosed a month ago and thanks to another flareup lead me to a Neuro who advised me of my problem.

  15. Well hopefully you don't experience it too much because it's horrible!

  16. Hey Matt,

    Touch wood I hope the problem of Diplopia does not return, it was the worst few weeks of my life and a very unnerving experience, especially not knowing that I had MS at the time, thinking that I had a possible tumor. Covering one eye helped a lot, and during that time driving was an impossibility.

    Now through my very late MS diagnosis, and now having also been tested as JC positive, I was given two options. Right now am not keen to go on Natalizumab (Tysabri) knowing the potential risk of PML associated with the dormancy of JC in my body. I have ultimately made the choice of Flingomod (Gylenia). I hate taking drugs, especially a drug I need to take every day, but have found that eating more whole, unprocessed foods is an essential to life. In the natural world processed foods do not exist, so why does modern man consume processed food is beyond me. Right now keeping my Vitamin D levels up, increase my omega 3 intake and watch what I eat, remove milk (cows milk from my diet), keep active and think positively.

    It is sad to know you have been diagnosed at such an early age in life than me (I was 29) and like the rest of us will persevere and fight it. I wish you all the best and Christmas and New Year 2014.

  17. Sorry for the late reply! Was taking a…. "social media brake". Glad you did not try to drive with one eye covered haha… I don't like meds either but I dont like what happens to me when I am NOT on them even worse… The early age sucks but better then when I have a career wife and kids in the mix. Now it's just me learning to live with MS and then going into a career with the disease. So… what ever… haha

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *