EPIRETINAL MEMBRANCE, may also be referred to as a Macular Pucker and is caused by changes to the vitreous humor or more rarely, by diabetes. If you think of the eye as a camera, the retina is like the photographic film – a thin layer of sensitive tissue which sends information to the brain. At the centre of the retina is the macula which is vital for detailed vision such as recognizing complex shapes and reading. Scar tissue may grow across the macular, causing the membrane to contract. This creates distortion, particularly for reading and visually demanding tasks.
Why does it happen?
Most epiretinal membranes occur in the over 50s because the vitreous pulls away from the retina. The membrane may also form following eye surgery or inflammation inside the eye, known as uveitis.
How does it affect vision?
While the scar tissue is developing it may display very minimal symptoms. In the later stages it can distort central vision. Straight lines can appear wavy or crooked and reading is difficult.
How is epiretinal membrane diagnosed?
A non-invasive, quick scan called an OCT – Optical Coherence Tomography – and a detailed assessment by a retinal surgeon is recommended.
What is the treatment?
Under local anaesthetic, a vitrectomy employing sutureless micro-incision technique to remove the vitreous humor allows the retinal surgeon to grasp and gently peel away the epiretinal membrane from the retina under a very high resolution microscope. The eye will take between two and six weeks to heal but vision will continue to improve for several months. Sometimes drugs, such as steroids, may be used to enhance healing.