Updated on 

April 8, 2022

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Lattice Degeneration: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

What is Lattice Degeneration?

Lattice degeneration is an eye condition that affects the peripheral (side) retina.

It's 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 the following that could eventually result in a retinal detachment:

  • Tears
  • Breaks
  • Holes  
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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. These impulses 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's common to find the condition in both. 

If you have lattice degeneration, oval-shaped or straight patches will mark the thinned retina, as well as pigment clumps.

Sclerotic vessels can also form a crosshatching pattern across the area. These are thin, white vessels due to poor blood flow or tissue damage.

Overall, there may be one lesion or many more. 

How Common is this Condition?

In the United States (U.S.), lattice degeneration affects eight to ten percent of the general population.1 

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

Despite this, you may find lattice degeneration more frequently in people with myopia (nearsightedness).

It can also occur in those with the following conditions:

Stickler syndrome

People with this genetic disorder have flattened noses and cheekbones. They also have issues with hearing and bone. In addition, they can experience early-onset retinal detachment. 

Ehlers-Danlos

This tissue disease causes 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 are abnormally tall and have long limbs and digits. Because of this syndrome, life-threatening issues with the aorta can occur. The aorta is the largest artery in the body. Those with Marfan syndrome face an increased risk of lattice degeneration and retinal detachment.  

Lattice degeneration will not trigger symptoms. However, a retinal tear or detachment caused by the condition can occur on rare occasions. 

Lattice Degeneration.The American Society of Retina Specialists.

What Causes Lattice Degeneration? 

Healthcare professionals do not know the exact cause of lattice degeneration.

You may come across the condition more often in people with myopia or certain genetic conditions. However, no specific determinant for lattice degeneration has been listed. It can worsen existing eye diseases also.

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 can increase the risk of developing lattice degeneration. For example, Stickler syndrome.

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 percent.2 

Rhegmatogenous detachments occur due to a hole or tear in the retina. This tear or hole eases the flow of fluid to collect below the retina, causing the separation.2

How is Lattice Degeneration Diagnosed?

People with suspected lattice degeneration will undergo a dilated fundus exam.

The fundus refers to the back of the eye where the following come together:

  • Retina
  • Macula
  • Vitreous
  • Choroid
  • Optic nerve

To perform this eye exam, the eye doctor will use dilating eye drops. Then, with 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. This process is called 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. The latter is a 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 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. 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 exams to monitor the condition. 

If you do not receive proper care for lattice degeneration, there is a retinal tear or detachment risk. If that occurs, treatment is possible. However, it 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. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is lattice degeneration a disability?

Lattice degeneration is not a disability. In most cases, it doesn't require any treatment.
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 risk 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. This minimizes 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. A retinal tear or detachment can result in permanent vision loss if left untreated. 

Can lattice degeneration be cured?

No.

However, your ophthalmologist may consider a preventive surgical approach to strengthen specific areas of the peripheral retina. 

Can stress cause retinal detachment?

No.

Other factors like age or lattice degeneration increase the risk of retinal detachment.

6 Cited Research Articles
  1. Lattice Degeneration.The American Society of Retina Specialists.
  2. Peri-Vascular Lattice Degeneration, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Iowa Health Care, November 2013
  3. Porter, Daniel. “What Is Lattice Degeneration?American Academy of Ophthalmology, 17 Mar. 2020.
  4. Posterior Vitreous Detachment, Retinal Breaks, and Lattice Degeneration Preferred Practice Pattern.American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), 2019.
  5. Retinal Detachment.Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 28 Aug. 2020.
  6. 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.
Melody Huang is an optometrist and freelance health writer. Through her writing, Dr. Huang enjoys educating patients on how to lead healthier and happier lives. She also has an interest in Eastern medicine practices and learning about integrative medicine. When she’s not working, Dr. Huang loves reviewing new skin care products, trying interesting food recipes, or hanging with her adopted cats.
Anthony Armenta earned his B.A. in International Relations from the University of California, Irvine. After graduation, he decided to live abroad in Spain. Currently, he has spent the past 5 years working as a freelance health content writer and medical editor for different public hospitals in central Barcelona. He has covered different medical specialties from infectious diseases and pneumology to breast cancer and plastic surgery. His commitment to writing fact-driven, health-related content stems from the belief that such type of information can empower all individuals to take action and improve their health today.
https://www.visioncenter.org/author/anthony/
Author: Anthony Armenta  | UPDATED April 8, 2022
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Medical reviewer: Dr. Melody Huang, O.D.
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Dr. Melody Huang, O.D.
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The information provided on VisionCenter.org should not be used in place of actual information provided by a doctor or a specialist.

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