The influence of refractive error and lattice degeneration on the incidence of retinal detachment

Trans Am Ophthalmol Soc. 1989;87:143-55; discussion 155-7.


This study indicates the feasibility of stratifying the general population into various risk pools for retinal detachment depending on a person's age, refractive status, and the presence of lattice degeneration. At first impression the risks seem at variance with the fine clinical studies of Byer, who has shown a very low detachment rate in the population with lattice degeneration. In all likelihood the vast majority of his patients were emmetropic or mildly myopic, so that very few would be expected to develop detachments during their entire lifetimes, let along during intervals of only 10 to 20 years. This study shows the futility of following, or treating prophylactically, young emmetropic individuals with lattice degeneration. Assuming that prophylaxis is actually effective, one would have to treat 1000 emmetropic lattice patients in the 30 to 39 year age group to prevent a single detachment over a 10-year period. Lattice patients with low to moderate degrees of myopia tend to develop detachments between 40 and 60 years of age caused by premature posterior vitreous separation and tractional tears. Clearly prophylaxis for this group is not warranted, since only 5% to 10% of these individuals will experience detachments in their lifetimes. On the other hand this study has verified the previous suspicions that persons with myopia exceeding -5.0 D accompanied by lattice degeneration have an extraordinarily high risk of detachment during their lifetimes. Detachments in this group tend to cluster in the second, third, and fourth decades, are typically caused by atrophic holes, are slowly progressive, and are often simultaneously bilateral. Enhanced vigilance is certainly appropriate during this time and perhaps consideration should be given to prophylactically treating this group. This would be no small task, since within a population of 1 million persons there would be about 1150 aged 10 to 39 years with myopia exceeding -5.0 D and lattice degeneration. Only 4 detachments annually and 40 detachments in 10 years would be expected in this highest risk group.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myopia / complications
  • Refractive Errors / complications*
  • Retinal Degeneration / complications*
  • Retinal Detachment / epidemiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Wisconsin / epidemiology