Epiretinal membranes create a ‘film’ over the macula at the back of your eye, making it harder for you to see.
Epiretinal membranes are often confused with macular degeneration. Although both conditions affect the macula (the sharp focusing area of the retina at the back of your eye) they actually have different symptoms and causes.
Epiretinal membrane symptoms
An epiretinal membrane will not cause total blindness – it will typically only affect the central vision in the affected eye, while peripheral or ‘side’ vision remains unaffected.
Sometimes, the epiretinal membrane can be very mild, and has no effect on vision at all. In other cases, the epiretinal membrane may worsen over time, causing blurring and distortion to the central part of your vision.
Causes of epiretinal membranes
An epiretinal membrane is a thin sheet of fibrous tissue that can form on the macula (the sharp focusing area at the back of your eye). It acts like a film through which it is harder to see.
The film may also contract like scar tissue, which can pull on the delicate retina at the back of your eye. This ‘puckering’ of the macula can distort your vision, and can also cause the retina to swell so it doesn’t work as well. This condition is known as a ‘macular pucker’.
In most cases, epiretinal membranes occur in people with no history of eye problems. It is usually caused by natural changes in the vitreous ‘gel’ inside the eye. These changes cause cells from the retina and other parts of the eye to be released into the vitreous ‘gel’, and they eventually settle on the macula, where they can form a membrane.
Occasionally however, an epiretinal membrane can form as a result of a previous eye problem, such as a torn or detached retina, trauma, disease, blood vessel abnormality or other condition.
Epiretinal membrane treatments
Not all epiretinal membranes require treatment. If the epiretinal membrane is very mild, and has little or no effect on your vision, then treatment will generally be unnecessary.
In more severe cases, epiretinal membrane surgery may be necessary to remove the membrane. You can discuss your treatment options for epiretinal membranes with an eye expert when you make an appointment.