What is an epiretinal membrane?
If we imagine the eye as a camera the retina (the back surface of the eye) is like a photographic film. Light is focused on the retina which sends information to the brain.
In the middle of the retina is the macula. The macula is a small but very important area of the retina. The macula is approximately 5mm in diameter. The macula is vital for sharp central vision and is the area of the retina used for seeing fine detail, such as reading and driving.
An epiretinal membrane is a thin layer of scar tissue which forms across the macula. An epiretinal membrane can contract and distort the retinal tissue.
An epiretinal membrane may also be referred to as macular pucker or cellophane maculopathy.
What happens to the vision if I have an epiretinal membrane?
Often epiretinal membranes’ are found by chance on routine eye examination with the optician. While the scar tissue is developing it may cause no effect on the vision.
When epiretinal membranes contract and distort the retinal tissue, this may affect the central vision in particular for reading and fine, detailed tasks. You may notice distortion of your central vision, for example, straight lines appear wiggly and reading may be difficult. Depending on how severe the distortion is there may be a significant loss of central vision.
An epiretinal membrane does not cause blindness.
Treatment for epiretinal membrane is only required when the vision has become affected.
What are the causes of an epiretinal membrane?
In most cases an epiretinal membrane will occur with no history of previous eye problems. An epiretinal membrane is related to normal ageing changes within the eye. Usually, as we get older the vitreous (the jelly inside the eye) pulls away from the retina and this can cause an epiretinal membrane. An epiretinal membrane can also occur after eye surgery when there is inflammation inside the eye. Or it may be related to other diseases such as diabetes.
An epiretinal membrane does not normally affect the other eye.
In my next post on this subject, I’ll discuss treatment of an epiretinal membrane.