An epiretinal membrane is a thin sheet of scar tissue that can develop on the surface of the retina and cause a disturbance in vision. An epiretinal membrane is also sometimes called macular pucker, premacular fibrosis, surface wrinkling retinopathy or cellophane maculopathy.
The macula is in the center of the retina and it gives us sharp central vision and reading vision.
An epiretinal membrane develops as a result of changes that occur in the back of the eye between the clear vitreous gel, and the macula. Normal cells derived from the retina and other tissues within the eye may settle on the surface of the macula. These cells may begin to proliferate into a “membrane.”
In many instances this membrane remains very thin and does not have any significant effect on the person's vision. In other cases, however, the membrane may slowly become thicker, eventually creating a disturbance in the retina that leads to visual blurring and/or distortion in the affected eye.
In the majority of cases, an epiretinal membrane develops in an eye with no history of previous problems. Occasionally however, an epiretinal membrane will develop in an eye as a result of retinal detachment, trauma, inflammatory disease, blood vessel abnormalities, or other eye conditions.
Most epiretinal membranes are mild and have little or no effect on vision. However, in some cases, the epiretinal membrane may slowly grow and begin to cause mechanical distortion (“wrinkling”) in the macula. This may lead to blurred or distorted vision, which may slowly worsen over time.
An epiretinal membrane does not make an eye go completely blind. It typically affects only the center area of vision and does not cause a loss of the peripheral (side) vision.
Epiretinal membranes are treated with vitrectomy surgery. This is usually performed with local anaesthetic as an outpatient. However, surgery is not necessary if the epiretinal membrane is mild and having little or no effect on vision.
Most patients will have a significant improvement in vision following surgery, however this may occur gradually over several months. The amount of visual improvement varies from person to person and depends on the severity and chronicity of the epiretinal membrane, the level of vision preoperatively, and the presence of any other ocular abnormalities.