What is Lattice Degeneration?

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on August 25, 2022
4 min read

Lattice degeneration of the retina occurs when your retina gets thinner over time. About 10% of people experience this condition within their lifetime. It does not directly cause vision issues, but people with this condition are more likely to contend with a retinal tear or detachment.

Most people who have lattice degeneration have no symptoms. The condition is usually discovered during routine eye exams. However, people with lattice degeneration need to be on the lookout for symptoms of a retinal tear, which include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Seeing " floaters" in your field of vision. These are black or grey spots, strings, or webs in your vision.
  • Seeing flashing lights
  • Seeing a curtain or shadow obscuring a portion of your vision

Most people who have lattice degeneration have it in both of their eyes. While it is rare to develop a retinal detachment even if you have lattice degeneration, between 20 and 30 percent of people who have the most common type of retinal detachment also have experienced lattice degeneration.

Experts are not sure exactly what causes lattice degeneration. However, they do know there are certain people who are more at risk of developing the condition. It is not always inherited, but it does run in some families.

People who are nearsighted are the most likely to develop lattice generation. Being nearsighted means you have difficulty seeing far away but can see more clearly up close. Another name for nearsightedness is myopia.

Lattice degeneration is also more likely to occur in people with certain conditions, including:

  • Stickler syndrome, a genetic condition that can cause eye problems, hearing loss, and joint issues
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a genetic condition that primarily affects your skin, blood vessels, and joints
  • Marfan syndrome, a genetic condition that affects your heart, eyes, blood vessels, and bones

There is no treatment for lattice degeneration. This is not generally a problem, because the complications of retinal tears or detachments are pretty rare. 

If you have lattice degeneration, you should simply get regular eye exams with a dilated fundus examination. During this type of test, your eye doctor will put special eye drops in your eyes to dilate your pupils. This opens them up more to let your doctor see the fundus of your eye. The fundus includes a lot of the important working parts, including the retina.

If your doctor thinks you are at greater risk of a retinal tear or detachment, they may offer to perform a procedure to strengthen the retina. Such procedures include laser therapy or cryotherapy. However, these procedures have not been proven to work to prevent retinal tears or detachments.

If you do develop a retinal complication from lattice degeneration, you will require surgery. Depending on how severe your tear or detachment is, your doctor will choose one of three procedures:

Pneumatic retinopexy. During this procedure, your doctor will use medicine to numb your eye while you are awake. They will then remove a small amount of eye fluid. They will put a small air bubble in the eye to put the retina into its proper place, then use a laser to repair holes in your retina. 

The air bubble goes away over time. For the first few days after surgery, though, you will have to keep your head in a specific position to keep the air bubble in place.

Scleral buckle surgery. You will undergo general anesthesia and be asleep during this procedure. Your doctor will place a band around the sclera of your eye, which is the white part. This squeezes your eye slightly, pushing on the sides to encourage your retina to reattach. Your doctor might also use a laser or cryotherapy to fix holes in the retina. The band stays on your eye after surgery.

Vitrectomy. Vitrectomy is a similar procedure to retinopexy. However, it is often used to treat more severe retinal detachments and tears and is done in a hospital operating room rather than a doctor's office. Many people receive full anesthesia for this procedure; however, some receive just a local anesthetic. During the surgery, your doctor will use a laser to repair your retina, inject an air bubble to keep your retina in place, and may also replace some of the eye fluid with a synthetic fluid like silicone oil.

In general, the prognosis for lattice degeneration is positive. Most people who get lattice degeneration do not develop complications and don't require any treatment. Experts believe the condition progresses, but slowly. 

The prognosis is also good in the rare case that you do get a retinal detachment. 90% of retinal detachments can be fixed with surgery, and most require just one operation. As long as you seek medical care, there is a high likelihood that your vision will recover.

Several conditions may affect your retina, including:

  • Dry macular degeneration. This condition most often affects people over the age of 50. You can get it in one or both eyes. This occurs when the portion of your retina that is responsible for clear vision, the macula, degenerates. Typically, you will start to get cloudy or blurred vision toward the center of your eye but retain peripheral vision.
  • Wet macular degeneration. Similar to dry macular degeneration, this condition affects the macula. However, in this case, the damage is caused by blood vessels leaking into the macula.
  • Diabetic retinopathy. If you have diabetes, the blood vessels of your eyes can get damaged, causing blindness. This type of retinopathy is preventable with good diabetes management.
  • Retinal vein occlusion. This usually happens in just one eye. A retinal vein occlusion happens when a blood clot blocks a vein to the eye. Without treatment, you may lose some vision in that eye.