Have you ever felt dizzy and anxious when driving or riding in a car? If so, you could be experiencing one of the many symptoms of vertical heterophoria (VH), a binocular vision dysfunction caused by a misalignment of the eyes. This misalignment is typically the result of a head injury, but it can also occur when one eye is physically set a little higher than the other, causing the eyes to see images at slightly different levels.
How the Brain Responds to VH
The brain isn’t able to tolerate the eyes being out of alignment, so when VH is present, it responds by forcing the ocular muscles to move the eyes back into the appropriate positions. This puts a great amount of strain on the eye muscles, and the resulting stress and fatigue can lead to lightheadedness, dizziness and nausea, and a feeling of being disoriented. Such was the experience of M.K., a patient of Dr. Israeloff:
“Three years ago I suffered a bout of dizziness while driving across a bridge. I felt so disoriented that I had to pull off the road. The dizziness got progressively worse over time. I went to many doctors who could not find the cause of my symptoms. I couldn’t drive, function, or work. I never thought
my eye alignment could be the cause of these problems. After my first set of prism glasses my dizziness started to decrease. I can now work, drive, and enjoy life again.”
Symptoms of VH
VH manifests itself in a variety of different symptoms which, along with dizziness, can include anxiety, balance problems, headaches and nausea. Medical professionals often mistake these symptoms for other issues and prescribe treatment for migraines or vertigo. As VH is often the true culprit, these treatments are of course ineffective. The patients themselves often assume they are suffering from anxiety or panic attacks, never knowing that it’s their eyes that are causing the problem. Patricia K., another patient with undiagnosed VH, started looking for help when she began having trouble driving at night:
“Before I had my glasses I was unable to drive long distance on the highway. I would have what I thought were panic attacks … I felt as if I was going to pass out, and it was an overwhelming feeling, it created anxiety, and it got to the point I didn’t even want to drive long distance … It was debilitating and I felt that I became homebound, I wasn’t going out as much. I had anxiety walking into large crowded areas. I felt overwhelmed, and I thought it was social anxiety. And I was also very nauseous most of the time, so I thought I had different issues, and I just thought that the aging process was getting to me at a very young age. I’d been going to doctors, trying to find out what my issues were, and I wasn’t getting really any kind of an answer [until] Dr. Cheryl Berger-Israeloff … It was immediate as soon as I got my glasses, I feel that the first set that I got fixed my vision, my symptoms of the driving. I was able to drive, no issue the first time I wore them. And I don’t have the nausea anymore … and I’m able to wear my heels again and feel comfortable, like I’m not going to fall over. I’m not dizzy … I just have better quality of life, and I feel good.”
Get Treated for VH and Drive Without Dizziness
Treatment for VH is really as simple as prescribing a pair of eyeglasses. If you’ve been experiencing dizziness or anxiety while driving, it may be time to find out more about vertical heterophoria and the aligning prismatic lenses we use to treat it here at the Neuro Visual Center of New York. Give us a call today at (516) 224-4888 to learn how we can help you overcome your VH and drive with confidence again.