There are several conditions that can affect the retina and cause weakness of the retina in certain places, thus making retinal detachment more likely. Among these so-called pre-detachment conditions, the most common is a degenerative condition of the retina called lattice degeneration. In this condition, thinning occurs in the periphery of the retina. In these thin areas, retinal holes or tears may form. Once a retinal hole or tear appears, an anatomical situation is created in which fluid from the inside of the eye (from the vitreous gel) can leak through the hole in the retina and accumulate behind the retina, displacing it forward and causing a retinal detachment.

Since the retina is the real seeing layer of the eye and lines the eyeball, when the retina detaches vision may become blurry and a dark shadow may appear before the affected eye.

Since lattice degeneration (especially when associated with nearsightedness and a family history of retinal detachment) increases an individual’s risk of retinal detachment, preventive therapy is often required.

Fortunately, technology has given us sophisticated methods to reinforce the adhesion of the retina to the other layers of the eye and thus decrease the risk of retinal detachment. The two most common forms of treatment used for lattice degeneration are cryopexy (freezing of the retinal tissues) and argon laser (using laser light). When laser is used, several dot-like spots are used to “spot-weld” the treated area. When cryopexy (freezing) is used, a wider area is treated by the brush-like effect of cold. Treatment can be done under local anesthesia if cryopexy is used, or just after the use of anesthetic drops if the laser is used. The type of treatment selected depends on the method that will bring the best results for each individual case. Cryopexy is the most common method chosen.

Periodic checkups will ensure good condition of the eyes and preventive treatment will greatly reduce the incidence of retinal detachment or its severity in patients with lattice degeneration.

* Name coined because of the resemblance to a white lattice fence.