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Lattice Degeneration

Lesions appear as criss-crossing lines and may run around the circumference of the eye. Often the thinning becomes profound that some patients develop retinal holes. Lattice degeneration is the thinning and weakening of the retina the light-sensitive inner layer of the eye that receives visual images. The retina is quite thin and fragile and its stability depends on interaction with other ocular structures. Although the exact cause is still unknown lattice degeneration may result from poor blood supply to the peripheral retina and/or tugging on the retina by the vitreous – the jelly-like substance that fills and maintains the eye’s oval shape. Lattice degeneration presents most frequently along the superior and inferior outer edges of the retina. These lesions appear as criss-crossing lines and almost always run around the circumference of the eye. Often the thinning becomes so profound that some patients develop retinal holes.

Lattice degeneration is a fairly common condition occurring in approximately 10 per cent of the population. Nearly all people with this condition are over 20 years old; lattice lesions are thought to develop at an early age but with minimal progression. The patient usually experiences no symptoms except for the rare complaint of floaters or flashes of light in the corner of the eye. Lattice degeneration seems to occur more frequently in patients with myopia (nearsightedness) and tends to be bilateral. The underlying cause of the condition is not known.

Those patients who experience flashes of light have retinal holes or have significant lattice degeneration may be at a higher risk for developing a retinal detachment. While less than one per cent of those with lattice degeneration go on to have a retinal detachment the possibility is still there. Moreover up to 25 percent of people who suffer a retinal detachment will have an area of lattice degeneration. Therefore it s crucial that people with lattice degeneration know the warning signs for retinal detachments; one eye experiences flashes of light a sudden ‘shower’ of floaters or loss of vision.

People who have the following risk factors – and who have lattice degeneration – should undergo a complete eye examination as soon as possible to prevent retinal detachment:

  • retinal detachment in the opposite eye (when unilateral)
  • history of retinal detachment in the family
  • myopia

Treatment options are few for those with lattice degeneration. Since the condition is generally benign and asymptomatic the possible treatments may not be that beneficial. For those patients with certain risk factors your eye care practitioner may recommend laser photocoagulation which basically seals up any tears rips or holes in the retina. The main concern for those with lattice degeneration is the possibility of retinal detachment so the best advice is to learn the symptoms of retinal detachment and schedule follow-up visits with your eyecare practitioner.