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Is double vision a sign of a stroke?

Double vision (diplopia) can occur after a stroke, so it is very important to see a doctor as soon as you experience this vision disturbance, even if it is your only symptom. 

There can be various causes for diplopia, but double vision after a stroke typically stems from damage to the nerves that help control eye movement. The nerves and muscles that control eye movement are also very important to keeping the eyes aligned correctly, and misalignment is what usually results in double vision after a stroke.

The effects of the nerve damage can range from some loss of control over eye movement to an inability to move the eyes. With the onset of diplopia, a person may have trouble with activities such as driving, reading, walking and other everyday activities.

Several other types of vision problems may also occur after a stroke. They can be caused by damage to the way the brain processes images or by damage to the visual pathways from the eyes to the brain.

Is double vision after a stroke common?

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), it is common for diplopia to occur after a stroke, along with other vision problems related to eye movement. The nerves involved in eye movement can be affected during or after the event of a stroke, causing the eye muscles to work improperly.

Besides double vision, this can affect the ability to track moving objects, move the eyes from side to side (like for reading), judge distance accurately and hold the eyes still to focus.

SEE RELATED: Causes of sudden or temporary double vision

Is double vision after a stroke permanent?

Strokes affect everyone differently. Some people may face long-term vision problems, while others may see improvement in their recovery within a shorter period of time. Regardless of the extent that vision is affected, it is important to have regular comprehensive eye exams to ensure appropriate vision management and/or improvement after an event as serious as a stroke.

How is double vision managed after a stroke?

Managing vision problems like diplopia after a stroke will vary from person to person, depending on the degree of vision disturbance and which part of the brain the stroke affected. Treatments for double vision always depend on the underlying cause of the diplopia. Vision therapy and regular checkups will likely be needed to address visual aftereffects of a stroke.

For diplopia and other eye movement vision problems caused by a stroke, rehabilitation may include the following:

Vision therapy like that used to treat strabismus may be helpful in retraining the eye muscles and improving the movement and coordination of the eyes after a stroke. Some vision therapy exercises may include the following:

  • Tracking exercises: tracking movements of an object from one direction to another, such as a swinging ball or a moving pen

  • Transitioning exercises: focusing on an object far away followed by an object closer to the eyes

  • Computer-based programs or games

How does a stroke affect vision overall?

Diplopia (double vision) is only one of several types of stroke-related vision disturbances, including:

The way the brain processes images can also be affected by a stroke. This can result in vision problems such as:

READ NEXT: Monocular double vision & other types of double vision

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