What Is Suppression

What does it mean when one of my eyes is suppressed? And how does that impact vision? 

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What Is Suppression?

Suppression is the act of one of the eye’s shutting down visual input being sent to the brain. This can happen intermittently or be constant. Suppression could also be isolated to one eye or alternate between both. Usually this happens when binocular vision cannot be achieved so in order to compensate an eye would suppress the visual information.

How Does Suppression Happen?

How Does Suppression Happen?

It can occur for a multitude of specific reasons but to keep it simple it happens when our binocular system engages but can’t achieve fusion. Fusion is when both of our eyes are acting in concert and take two separate images they’re perceiving and form them into one image in our minds. When fusion can’t be achieved we will end up with diplopia, or seeing two separate images at once. As you could imagine this isn’t what someone would like to experience all the time. Our minds, being powerful tools, figure a way around this in order to reduce the comfort one would experience with double vision. The mind effectively turns off the incoming data from one of the eyes, usually the weaker one, just like a light switch. Now the mind is only taking in the sensory information from one eye, making for one distinct picture in our mind. Usually, the lack of fusion is ascribed to the system being brought to and exceeding its breaking point or the range when it cannot achieve binocularity.

Is Eye Suppression Constant or Alternating?

Is Eye Suppression Constant or Alternating?

This is indeed a good question. If someone is to experience suppression, is it isolated to one eye? The answer, like most things medically related, has a few components to the answer. The answer varies depending on what specific person it’s affecting. Most people experience suppression within a certain binocular range where the demand exceeds what they are able to do. If suppression occurs in this range a person might use their stronger eye over the weaker one. Suppression can be constant or intermittent once a person is in that range meaning once they hit that point the suppression won’t subside until the demand is decreased or, like our light switch metaphor, it will flicker on and off resulting in intermittent suppression. Another feature of suppression is that it can be alternating which means that a person will switch between what eye is relaying information and what eye is not. For the most part, people aren’t aware of the alternation as well as the occurrence of suppression in general. 

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Symptoms of Eye Suppression

Symptoms of Eye Suppression

We touched on a few symptoms earlier but we’ll go over them in detail now. The list of symptoms includes but is not limited to: 

  • Eye turn/deviation
  • Inaccurate depth judgment
  • Incoordination
  • Inaccurate eye-hand coordination
  • Abnormal postural adaptation
  • Spatial disorientation
  • Lacking concentration or distractibility while performing visually demanding tasks



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Common Questions

Eye suppression can severely compromise binocular vision, which requires both eyes to work in unison. When one eye suppresses or "turns off," it disrupts the balance, making tasks like judging distances difficult. An eye doctor can identify suppression through a functional eye exam and recommend interventions.
Yes, if one eye consistently suppresses, it can lead to amblyopia or "lazy eye" in children. Regular check-ups with an optometrist can detect early signs, enabling timely intervention.
Trauma, whether physical or emotional, can trigger eye suppression as a defense mechanism to avoid double vision or visual discomfort. It's vital to consult an eye doctor post-trauma to address any visual concerns.
While both involve one eye being favored, ocular dominance is a natural preference of one eye over the other for tasks. Suppression, however, involves one eye "turning off" due to an underlying issue. An optometrist can distinguish between the two during an exam.
Absolutely. Vision therapy, designed to enhance visual skills and address imbalances, can be beneficial in treating long-term suppression. Under the guidance of an optometrist, tailored exercises can retrain the eyes to work together, mitigating suppression.
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If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it might be worth a look during an advanced vision exam. At this is one of the things we check for throughout a comprehensive vision exam. In the event that suppression is diagnosed we would be able to treat it through vision therapy.

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