The retina is the light-sensitive part of your eye. It receives light entering your eye and then sends messages to your brain to interpret that light.
Your retina is a sensitive part of your eye, and it can be affected by many different conditions that can interfere with your eyesight. Epiretinal membranes are one of these conditions that can distort your vision.
Here at Retina Consultants of Austin, our eye doctors are specially trained to treat this and other retinal conditions.
Epiretinal membranes are membranes or scar tissue that develop on the surface of the retina. They cause it to wrinkle, but in most cases, these membranes aren’t dangerous.
Sometimes they don’t need treatment, but epiretinal membranes or ERMs can cause vision loss in certain instances.
ERMs are very common and occur most often in adults over the age of 50. They affect your central vision, which you use for things like driving and reading.
Other names for epiretinal membranes are cellophane maculopathy and macular pucker.
What are the Symptoms of Epiretinal Membranes?
Epiretinal membranes are painless and in some people are entirely asymptomatic. However, in other people, ERMs can slowly progress over time, causing distortion of your vision. Distortion may cause straight lines to appear wavy at times.
For example, you might notice that shapes like squares or rectangles appear wavy. Other visual symptoms include a gray, cloudy, or blank spot in your central vision.
Difficulty seeing details could also be a sign of an ERM forming. Epiretinal membranes will not affect your peripheral vision.
What Causes Epiretinal Membranes?
Epiretinal membranes have several different known causes. The most common is a vitreous detachment. That is when the vitreous, a jelly-like substance in the middle of your eye, pulls away from your retina.
Other common causes of ERMs include:
You’re more at risk for developing ERMs as you grow older.
How are Epiretinal Membranes Diagnosed?
Your eye doctor can diagnose epiretinal membranes in their office. They will take you through a thorough eye exam to start.
Fluorescein angiography and optical coherence tomography tests (OCT) also help diagnose an ERM. These are both performed at your eye doctor’s office.
Fluorescein angiography uses a fluorescent dye to illuminate the blood vessels in your retina and can highlight any distortion that the ERM may be causing.
An OCT takes a cross-sectional image of your retina and can show your retina specialist if the ERM is distorting the architecture of your retina.
What’s the Best Treatment for Epiretinal Membranes?
If your symptoms are mild, you may not need any treatment at all. In some cases, ERMs can be safely monitored over time for changes.
There is no evidence that remedies like eye drops and medications treat ERMs. But if epiretinal membranes are inhibiting your vision, your eye doctor may recommend surgery.
The procedure performed for epiretinal membranes that need to be treated is a vitrectomy.
How Does a Vitrectomy Work?
Your eye doctor will take the gel, known as the vitreous, out of your eye during a vitrectomy. Then they will be able to reach the surface of your retina and remove the membrane or scar tissue.
After the surgeon removes the tissue, they will replace your vitreous with oil or a gas bubble. The replacement substance will hold your retina in place as it flattens out and heals.
Vitrectomies are generally considered a low-risk procedure, however, your doctor will review all risks and benefits of the surgery with you ahead of time.
What is Vitrectomy Recovery Like?
After a vitrectomy, you will need to wear an eye shield and use special eye drops. At first, your vision may be blurry.
You’ll likely notice improved vision in 2-3 months. But it can take up to a year to recover in full from having a vitrectomy.
You may not be able to drive for a week or more following your vitrectomy. You will need to follow all other instructions your doctor gives you for recovery.
Have questions about epiretinal membranes? Schedule an appointment at Retina Consultants of Austin in Austin, TX, now!