BACKGROUND: The choroid of the chick swells markedly during recovery from experimentally induced myopia. It has been demonstrated previously that the lymphatic sinusoids of the choroid contribute most to the expansion. This raises important questions about the particular ultrastructural changes occurring in choroidal lymphatics as a means of understanding the role these vessels might play in emmetropization. METHODS: Thirteen hatchling chicks were monocularly occluded for 2 weeks to induce myopia and then allowed normal visual experiences during recovery for periods of 0 to 72 h before sacrifice. RESULTS: Electron microscopic analysis detailed the temporal progression of vascular changes and provides qualitative evidence for edema in the extravascular space. Quantitative analysis showed that the frequency of open junctions between lymphatic endothelial cells (an indicator of passive fluid transfer) increased over the 3 days of recovery. Lymphatic fenestrations (an indicator of active fluid transfer) were rare in both nondeprived eyes and in form-deprived eyes at the time of occluder removal, but increased in density significantly over the first 24 h of recovery before returning to control levels by 72 h. The number of lymphatic endothelial caveolae did not change significantly during recovery, nor did the number of fenestrations along the walls of choriocapillaris vessels. CONCLUSIONS: The walls of the lymphatics of the chick choroid open to allow greater fluid transfer during re-emmetropization than normal; the lymphatics may play an important role in the maintenance of chorioretinal fluid balance and homeostasis.