When I think of my past double vision I think about the song by that name by the band Foreigner. Singing it to myself eased the eerie discomfort and scariness it brought. When it would come on seemingly out of the blue, I would lurch around, unable to walk straight, and frankly feel left in the lurch, when away from home, unable to safely drive, stuck where I was. I wondered how long it would last. Sometimes my friend drove me home, or my husband had to be called to pick me up, leaving my car parked where I left it before the strange symptom began. Other times I just sat in my car and waited for it to stop.
Here I’m talking about diplopia, a complaint of seeing two images of everything in your view instead of one. Often when I experienced diplopia, it was also accompanied with some mild blurry vision. The first time it happened it was frightening. Later times the fear eased, but the frustration and inconvenience continued. I didn’t feel blinded exactly, but sure couldn’t go about my day fully functional until it passed.
There are many causes for diplopia. They can range from stroke, to head injury, to corneal irregularities, cataracts, and more. Some of the more “innocent” causes can even include drunkenness, excess fatigue, or dry eyes. Actually, if you take both pointer fingers and gently press the sides of your eye lids, you can temporarily see double even then, until the pressure is released. [Don’t try this for more than a second or two.] In my case, the cause was clearly a notorious side effect of an anticonvulsant medication I started taking. My diplopia from that medication was at its worst in the beginning of taking it, and as it was gradually increased to a therapeutic level. I’ve been told that it can also come back if the levels of this medication in my blood are too high.
I believe I experienced diplopia off and on for about three to four months. Sometimes it lasted just a few minutes, but other times up to an hour. Though my doctor wasn’t sure of my theory, I thought it most often started when I exercised too much, or when I bent over and stood up again too fast. It usually happened maybe a few times per week in the beginning, but at its worst it was every day. As I grew used to the medication, luckily this side effect disappeared. That’s not always the case when it is from different causes.
If ever you experience bouts of double or blurry vision, please contact your doctor right away to get a proper diagnosis and treatment. It’s important to find the cause, and to keep yourself safe.
Story of the first time I experienced diplopia:
The sun is shining and I walk briskly with my bff. She chats incessantly and I’m listening carefully. But all of a sudden my vision goes fuzzy and I sort of see two paths, and two sets of trees in front of me. She’s still chatting, and my heart begins to beat faster and faster.
Nervously I say, “Diane, I’m sorry, but something is wrong with my eyes. I’m seeing double.”
She stops her chatter and grows concerned. “Are you OK to walk?” she asks.
“I don’t know. Maybe slowly. Am I walking strangely?”
“Only slightly”, she responds. “Do you want me to call for someone to pick us up? We’re three miles from my home.”
“I don’t know, maybe that would be good.” I whisper with a shaky voice.
I stand in the place looking around me. Diane is concerned. I’m not really able to talk that much. Though my hearing is not really affected, my anxiety/panic makes it hard for me to concentrate. I’m glad Diane is there. What if it happened to me the first time when on a long walk by myself? I think I’d find even calling for help on my cell phone difficult to manage. Why on earth is this happening to me? This has been a year (2013) of non-stop neurological and other strange experiences.