What is ERM?
Otherwise normal eyes can be affected when an epiretinal membrane (macular pucker) occurs on the macular of the retina. With this condition, a thin sheet made of fibrous tissue forms on the surface of the macular, which is in the center of the retina. Since the macular plays a pivotal role in providing reading and sharp central vision, a membrane can affect vision to the point where a patient suffers from blurriness or distortion. The membrane forms due to cellular changes in the back of the eye where the retina and vitreous gel are located. Various cells and tissue can get loose from the retina and other structures to rest on the macula to form the epiretinal membrane.
An epiretinal membrane isn’t classified as a disease and can occur in the healthy eyes of anyone, even those without previous eye conditions. While an epiretinal membrane is often confused with macular degeneration, the conditions are quite different. Macular degeneration is an incurable eye disease that is usually age-related and can lead to complete vision loss. On the other hand, epiretinal membranes do not cause complete blindness and are usually mild. The board-certified retina specialists at our Jacksonville eye clinic have the diagnostic tools readily available to make an accurate diagnosis so that the most effective treatment can be prescribed.
Causes and Symptoms
Epiretinal membranes are caused by a variety of cellular changes that occur in the back of the eye where the retina and macular are located, as well as the vitreous gel. The normal cells and tissue of the retina and other eye structures can dislodge and move to the vitreous gel. From there, the cells and tissue move onto the macula, which is the central part of the retina. The cells will continue to multiply and will eventually become a membrane. In other cases, the membrane is caused by trauma to the eye, various diseases, a detached retina, blood vessel abnormalities, and a number of other conditions.
The most common symptoms are blurred and/or distorted vision. There is often a decrease in central vision, which can make it harder for a patient to read fine print, drive, and make out fine details. Usually a membrane is mild and often causes no vision problems. In more severe cases, as the membrane grows, vision problems become worse; however, all vision won’t be lost.
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Your ophthalmologist will be able to easily notice and diagnose an epiretinal membrane through a detailed eye examination. In most cases, your doctor will utilize a slit lamp and dilate your eyes to get a close view, along with optical coherence tomography (OCT). OCT is an imaging test that uses light waves to take pictures of the retina. Your doctor will be able to closely examine the macular, the retina, vitreous gel, and various other structures in order to verify the presence of an epiretinal membrane.
Treatment and Prognosis
Many patients have mild epiretinal membranes that present few symptoms, which wouldn’t require surgery. There are currently no nonsurgical treatment options available. Surgery consists of a vitrectomy which is performed with local anesthesia. The surgeon will make a number of extremely small incisions and use special instruments to remove and replace the vitreous gel with a saline solution. Then, the epiretinal membrane will be carefully removed from the eye. After surgery, a patch will be worn over the eye and eye drops and ointment can be used to speed up the healing process.
The majority of patients will experience a significant improvement after surgery. The restoration of vision is gradual and usually takes several months. The extent of improvement depends on the patient’s condition, such as how severe the membrane was, prior visual acuity, and if any other eye conditions are present.
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Treat Epiretinal Membrane
Even though most epiretinal membranes are mild and don’t require treatment, it’s important to get them diagnosed. If treatment is required, our talented practice offers surgery to restore vision and quality of life. Please contact our office to schedule a consultation as soon as possible.