Lattice Degeneration: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

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What is Lattice Degeneration?

Lattice degeneration is an eye condition that affects the peripheral (side) retina. It is an irregular thinning of the light-sensitive nerve tissue that runs across the back of the eye cavity. This part of the eye is important for good vision. 

If you have lattice degeneration, you are at risk for eye complications. For example, your retina may develop tears, breaks, or holes that could eventually result in a retinal detachment

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As the name suggests, retinal detachment refers to when the retina becomes loose from its normal position. If not resolved immediately, the condition can cause permanent vision loss. 

The retina forms an integral part of the eye. When light passes through the iris, it reaches the retina. The retinal tissue helps convert this light into electrical impulses that travel through the optic nerve to the brain to produce sight. 

What Does Lattice Degeneration Look Like?

Lattice degeneration can occur in one or both eyes. However, it is common to find the condition present in both. 

If you have lattice degeneration, oval-shaped or straight patches will mark the thinned retina, as well as pigment clumps. Sclerotic vessels (thin, white vessels due to poor blood flow or tissue damage) can also form a crosshatching pattern across the area. 

Overall, there may be one lesion or many more. 

How Common is this Condition?

In the United States (U.S.), lattice degeneration affects 8 to 10% of the general population

However, healthcare professionals and investigators do not know what causes the condition. Some family clusters may have lattice degeneration, but there is no definitive inheritance pattern. 

Despite this, you may find lattice degeneration more frequently in people with myopia (nearsightedness) or those with the following conditions:

  • Stickler syndrome. People with this genetic disorder will have flattened noses and cheekbones, as well as issues with hearing and bone. In addition, they can experience early-onset retinal detachment. 
  • Ehlers-Danlos. This tissue disease will cause joints to be hyper-extendable and skin abnormally elastic. It is a genetic condition and the risk of lattice degeneration and retinal detachment increases. 
  • Marfan syndrome. People with this connective tissue disease will be abnormally tall and have long limbs and digits. Because of this syndrome, life-threatening issues with the aorta (the largest artery in the body) can occur. Those with Marfan syndrome face an increased risk of lattice degeneration and retinal detachment.  

According to the American Society of Retina Specialists (ASRS), lattice degeneration will not trigger symptoms. However, a retinal tear or detachment caused by the condition can occur on rare occasions. 

What Causes Lattice Degeneration? 

As mentioned earlier, healthcare professionals do not know the exact cause of lattice degeneration. While you may come across the condition more often in people with myopia or certain genetic conditions, no specific determinant for lattice degeneration has been listed. 

There is no cure or means of prevention for lattice degeneration. 

Symptoms of Lattice Degeneration

This eye condition will not cause symptoms. However, it can result in a retinal tear or detachment. When this happens, symptoms can appear. It is important to seek immediate medical care from an ophthalmologist or retina specialist if a retinal tear or detachment occurs. 

In serious cases, a person can suffer permanent vision loss.

Symptoms of a retinal detachment include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Flashing lights
  • Floaters
  • Curtain affecting some of the peripheral (side) visual field

Lattice degeneration will not always lead to a retinal detachment. However, in rhegmatogenous retinal detachments, the prevalence of lattice degeneration was 20 to 40%. Rhegmatogenous detachments occur due to a hole or tear in the retina that eases the flow of fluid to collect below the retina and cause the separation.2

How is Lattice Degeneration Diagnosed?

If you believe you have lattice degeneration, you should seek a professional eye care provider consultation. 

People with suspected lattice degeneration will undergo a dilated fundus examination. The fundus refers to the back of the eye where the retina, macula, vitreous, choroid, and optic nerve come together. 

To perform this eye exam, the eye doctor will administer dilating eye drops. Then, using a headlight and special lenses, the doctor will obtain a clearer view of the retina to establish the first findings. 

Depending on the initial discoveries, the doctor may apply some pressure around the eye (scleral depression). No imaging tests are required for diagnosis. However, wide-angle photographs of the retinas can help with managing the condition. 

Treatment Options for Lattice Degeneration

Lattice degeneration is a slow and progressive eye condition. In most cases, treatment is not necessary. However, an annual visit to the eye clinic will assist with managing the condition, should it worsen. 

In rare cases, an eye doctor may recommend preventive laser therapy or cryotherapy (freezing treatment). These surgical approaches can reinforce weakened areas in the peripheral retina. 

Before submitting to the procedure, you should speak with your doctor about the risks and benefits before undergoing any type of surgical procedure. Currently, there is a lack of data on how effective these surgeries are in preventing retinal complications. 

Potential Complications of Untreated Lattice Degeneration

Lattice degeneration is minimally progressive. This means that if you have it, you may never develop a retinal tear or detachment. However, it is important to keep clinical visits and undergo regular dilated fundus examinations to monitor the condition. 

If you do not receive proper care for lattice degeneration, the risk of a retinal tear or detachment is present. If that occurs, treatment is possible but should be immediate. A retina specialist may consider laser treatment or another type of surgery to resolve the problem. 

In severe cases, untreated cases of a retinal detachment can result in permanent vision loss. 

Does Lattice Degeneration Always Require Treatment?

Fortunately, lattice degeneration is not highly progressive. If you maintain regular visits to the eye clinic and undergo dilated fundus examinations, you should not need any treatment. 

Treatment will be necessary in more severe cases where a retinal tear or detachment occurs. 

Common Questions & Answers

Is lattice degeneration inherited?

There is not enough conclusive evidence to suggest that lattice degeneration is inherited. However, it is possible to find clusters of family members with the condition. At the same time, certain genetic conditions, such as Stickler syndrome, can increase the risk of developing lattice degeneration. 

Is lattice degeneration a disability?

Lattice degeneration is not a disability. In most cases, it does not require any treatment. Conversely, in rare cases, it can lead to a retinal tear or detachment. If you experience a retinal detachment and do not seek immediate care, you face the risk of permanent vision loss. 

Does lattice degeneration get worse with age?

Lattice degeneration is a minimally progressive condition. This means that it can worsen over time, although slowly. If you maintain regular visits to the eye clinic, you can ensure proper monitoring of the condition and minimize the risk of serious eye-related complications. 

When should I worry about lattice degeneration?

If you believe you have lattice degeneration, you should visit your local ophthalmologist. If you begin to notice symptoms like floaters or blurred vision, seek immediate care. Lattice degeneration can cause a retinal tear or detachment, resulting in permanent vision loss if left untreated. 

Can lattice degeneration be cured?

No. It cannot. However, your ophthalmologist may consider a preventive surgical approach to strengthen specific areas of the peripheral retina. 

Can lattice degeneration cause floaters?

Lattice degeneration does not cause any symptoms. However, it can lead to a retinal tear or detachment. When this happens, you can notice floaters or other symptoms. 

Can stress cause retinal detachment?

No. It cannot. Other factors like age or lattice degeneration increase the risk of retinal detachment.

Resources
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Lattice Degeneration.The American Society of Retina Specialists.

Peri-Vascular Lattice Degeneration.

Porter, Daniel. “What Is Lattice Degeneration?American Academy of Ophthalmology, 17 Mar. 2020.

Posterior Vitreous Detachment, Retinal Breaks, and Lattice Degeneration Preferred Practice Pattern.American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), 2019.

Retinal Detachment.Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 28 Aug. 2020.

Semes, LP. “Lattice Degeneration of the Retina and Retinal Detachment.” Optometry Clinics : the Official Publication of the Prentice Society, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1992.

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