An epiretinal membrane, or a macular pucker, is a thin scar tissue that forms over the macula. The macula, found at the center of the retina, gives you crisp, focused central vision.
However, an epiretinal membrane prevents the macula from creating clear, detailed pictures. They can cause visual distortions, which can worsen over time.
Keep reading to learn more about epiretinal membranes and what causes them to form.
Causes of an Epiretinal Membrane
Different eye problems may cause an epiretinal membrane. For some patients, the membrane forms due to posterior vitreous detachment.
The vitreous or gel-like substance that gives your eye its shape gradually pulls away from the retina as you age. This pulling can lead to tiny breaks in the macula.
The breaks result in cells clumping over the macula to heal the damage. These cells eventually form scar tissue which becomes an epiretinal membrane. If the scar tissue contracts, it may cause the retina to pucker or wrinkle.
There can also be other causes of an epiretinal membrane. These can include retinal tear correction, laser treatment, or retinal detachment surgery. Diabetic retinopathy, uveitis, and severe eye trauma can also lead to epiretinal membranes.
Symptoms of an Epiretinal Membrane
For most people, the symptoms of an epiretinal membrane are mild. Vision changes are barely noticeable and don’t continually worsen.
But for more severe cases, vision becomes distorted and blurred. Straight lines appearing wavy, and trouble seeing fine print and detail can be common. Although rare, some individuals have double vision as well.
Diagnosis of an Epiretinal Membrane
Your eye doctor can detect an epiretinal membrane during a dilated eye exam to check your retina. A photographic test known as a fluorescein angiogram may be necessary to determine the extent of the damage and the cause.
Also, an optical coherence tomography or OCT, which is a retinal scan, can show the extent of the damage. OCT helps track the development of the macular pucker and how it responds to treatment.
Treatment of an Epiretinal Membrane
Usually, an epiretinal membrane doesn’t need treatment. Most people with one get used to the mild blurriness and distortion and don’t notice vision changes. And in some cases, the scar tissue on the macula clears up on its own.
But, if the visual symptoms interfere with your daily tasks, you may need a vitrectomy. A vitrectomy is a medical procedure that drains the vitreous from the eye to access the retina.
Then your surgeon can remove the epiretinal membrane. After removal, a saline solution replaces the vitreous to maintain your eye shape.
After the procedure, you will have to wear an eye patch until the following day. Your eye doctor will prescribe eye drops to help with the healing.
After a vitrectomy, you can resume non-strenuous physical tasks within twenty-four hours. Most patients report improved vision after surgery, but some may not see any changes.
The successful outcome of an epiretinal membrane surgery depends on various factors like:
- The amount of tugging on your macula
- The cause of the epiretinal membrane
- How long you’ve had it
Find Out If You Need Vitrectomy for An Epiretinal Membrane
An epiretinal membrane is only treatable with surgery. Other options like lasers and drops are usually not effective and don’t improve your vision.
The critical decision is if you need a vitrectomy or not. To find out, schedule an appointment at Joshi Eye Institute in Boynton Beach, FL!