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A range of conditions can cause double vision, including problems within the eye, such as the cornea or lens. Other underlying causes can involve muscles or nerves controlling eye function and movement, or issues in the brain. Some causes can be minor, such as astigmatism, or life threatening, such as an aneurysm or stroke.
The cornea is the clear layer that covers the front of the eye. Its main function is to focus incoming light into the eye. Problems in the cornea distort its surface, which can create double vision. Such problems include:
Infections such as shingles or herpes zoster
Scars caused by disease, injury or infection
Double Vision Caused by Lens Problems
Your eye's lens works with the cornea to focus incoming light onto the retina (back of the eye). The lens is behind the pupil and changes shape as it focuses.
The most common lens problem that can cause double vision is a cataract, a clouding of the normally clear lens due to aging. Our eye surgeons can remove cataracts in an outpatient surgery. Learn more about cataract surgery.
Double Vision Caused by Eye Muscle Problems
Six muscles in your eye socket control your eye's movement up, down, to each side and in rotation. Problems in these extraocular muscles include weakness or paralysis that prevent one eye from moving in coordination with the other. Eye muscle problems include:
Graves' disease, a thyroid condition that affects eye muscles and causes vertical double vision, in which one image appears above the other
Certain cranial nerves connect the brain to the eye muscles to control eye movement. Some conditions that can affect or damage these cranial nerves and lead to double vision include:
Diabetes, a metabolic disease affecting your body's ability to process blood sugar that can cause nerve damage
Guillain-Barre syndrome, a nerve condition in which early symptoms can occur in the eyes, causing muscle weakness
Myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks neuromuscular junctions involved in eye movement
Multiple sclerosis, a chronic neurological disease affecting the central nervous system, possibly damaging nerves that control eye movement
Double Vision Caused by Brain Problems
Several areas inside the brain process visual information that is transmitted from the eyes through nerves. If these areas are affected by illness or injury, double vision can result. Some brain conditions that can lead to double vision include: