In our practice, it’s not uncommon to hear patients with vertical heterophoria (VH) talk about how clumsy they’ve always been. These are people who routinely walk into walls, knock things over and stumble into things. One patient even told us she always knew something was wrong because she would hit her shoulder on a door frame several times every day! What is it about VH that causes these things to happen?
Facts About Vertical Heterophoria
VH is a binocular vision dysfunction in which the eyes are misaligned, causing images to appear higher in one eye than in the other. When the two eyes are not pointing to the same place, stereo vision is poor. Stereo vision is the phenomenon that occurs when two separate images, one from each eye, are combined together to make one 3D image. When stereo vision is faulty, this makes it very difficult for patients with this condition to judge where their bodies are in space. They’re constantly walking into things, tripping and misjudging distances.
VH can also disrupt the vestibular system, which controls your sense of balance. This makes it tricky for patients with VH to transition between two different surfaces, such as stepping from the grass onto the driveway, making them more vulnerable to falling and potentially injuring themselves.
Clumsiness is not the only symptom of VH. Other common symptoms include:
- Headaches and dizziness
- Migraines and vertigo
- Disorientation in moving vehicles
- Sensitivity to light
- Pain in the eyes or sinus area
- Difficulty concentrating or reading
- Blurred or shaky vision
Many of these symptoms correspond to other medical conditions as well, so it’s easy for patients to be misdiagnosed with something else when they actually have VH. That’s not to say that all clumsy people have VH or binocular vision problems, but some do. It’s something to investigate if you always walk into door frames!
Treating Vertical Heterophoria
Most optometrists don’t have the specialized equipment to enable them to diagnose VH. At the Neuro Visual Center of New York, we have everything we need to be able to spot even the smallest misalignments that indicate VH and other eye misalignment disorders. Treatment for VH usually entails prescribing special custom prismatic lenses that work to realign the eyes, which helps to greatly reduce or even eliminate the symptoms of VH.
For many years, Dr. Cheryl Berger Israeloff and her staff have had the joy of improving lives and allowing patients to function normally again. If you or a loved one have any of the aforementioned symptoms, contact the Neuro Visual Center of New York today at (516) 224-4888 to find out if VH might be the culprit.