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Vertical Heterophoria: Your Eyes Make You Feel Dizzy

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Do your eyes cause you to feel dizzy? A lot of us have been taking our vision for granted, and we only stop when we notice that something isn’t right. Because of this, it’s important to discuss an eye condition causing your headaches, dizziness, or perhaps blurred vision. This is what we call vertical heterophoria. 

The eyes are incredible. You’ll be so amazed to know that the eyes complete complicated tasks to capture every detail, and pass them to your brain. What’s even more complicated is that they send the details independently to the brain. In order to do these complex tasks, the eyes need to work simultaneously together.

So, what if our eyes stop working well together? This could result in a lot of issues with our eyes, and the next thing you know, you already have vertical heterophoria. This kind of eye problem occurs if our eyes aren’t aligned, and when of eye is a bit higher than the other. If you have this problem, you wouldn’t easily notice the slight height difference when you look at someone. But, this can significantly affect your vision.

What is vertical heterophoria?

Binocular vision is one of the important components when it comes to our vision. This refers to our eyes’ ability to work simultaneously together as a team. For people with good binocular vision, their eyes are perfectly in sync, and they work in tandem at all times. This allows their eyes to send a clear, focused image to their brain.

For people who experience a faulty binocular vision, their eyes do not work smoothly as a team, and they aren’t synchronised perfectly. This means that their eyes struggle to view one clear image.

When that happens, that’s when the problem begins. The brain can’t tolerate these shadowed, blurred, or doubled images, and as a result, it overworks the eye-aiming muscles. What happens next? The brain starts to strain the eyes, which leads to migraines, headaches, and other symptoms of vertical heterophoria.

Why does vertical heterophoria happen?

Vertical heterophoria cant start at birth, but its symptoms can only happen later in life, after prolonged strain on the muscles that surround the eyes. The eyes try hard to overcompensate for the minor difference in height, and then move up or down, which continuously strain the eye muscles. The eyes do this so they can see clearly together, instead of seeing doubled images. After some time, however, prolonged strain of the eye muscles can lead to vertical heterophoria, where the muscles give up. This is when dizziness, blurred vision, and headaches begin.

In some cases, a person may experience vertical heterophoria as a result of neurological issues or physical trauma. His eyes may not have a slight height difference, but somehow, his eye muscles are affected. As a result, his eyes stop working in unison.

What are the symptoms of vertical heterophoria?

Some of the signs and symptoms of this eye condition may have already been discussed above, which include blurred vision, headaches, dizziness, and migraine. But these aren’t the only symptoms. Below are the other symptoms you’ll notice if you suffer from this eye condition:

  • Anxiety. When an individual is unable to navigate his environment, he may begin to become anxious. This happens especially in crowded spaces, where there are too many visual stimuli that can overwhelm someone suffering vertical heterophoria.
  • Driving issues. This is common because one can feel the abnormal surroundings while in motion. For example, you may begin to feel like you’re seeing the cars zoom past yours, or that you’re moving backwards. This can cause you to feel very dizzy and stressed while in motion.
  • Neck and back pain. For some reason, you may experience back pain and neck pain if you suffer from this eye condition.
  • Issues with the vestibular system. Vertical heterophoria can result in vestibular system issues. The vestibular system is responsible for the balance and spatial awareness. And if this is already affected, someone who suffer from this condition may be off-balance when walking. If you have this, you may experience frequent falls. If you are experiencing this, you may be misdiagnosed as having vertigo, but this is worse than that.

What are the diagnosis of vertical heterophoria?

What are the diagnosis for someone who suffer from this eye condition? The sad truth is that people who have this eye condition are usually misdiagnosed.

For example, one patient may consult his doctor and complain about his being off-balance, and be given wrong information. What many doctors would tell him is that he has vertigo, and that’s because there isn’t a very clear symptom that would indicate that the patient has a different eye condition. They only find out it isn’t vertigo after undergoing careful examination of the different issues the patient is experiencing.

During the diagnosis, doctors conduct a thorough examination of the symptoms, together with different eye tests. If these symptoms persist, your eye doctor may ask you to see a specialist for further tests and examination.

What can you do?

The good news is that there is a solution to this eye condition. Once you are identified as someone suffering from this condition, you can use special prismatic lenses to help you overcome the minor eye height difference. Doing so will allow you to be able to see clearly without straining the eyes and complicate your condition.

Regular doctors almost never identify vertical heterophoria during an eye exam. Because of this, you’ll need the help of neurovisual experts. Only then they’ll be able to diagnose and treat your condition correctly, and you can live your life the way you want to. If your vision isn’t aligned, these experts will prescribe you with specialised realigning glasses.

Helen Bradfield did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being. 

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