Mr Felipe Dhawahir-Scala, a top ophthalmologist, explains what an epiretinal membrane is, some common symptoms and the treatment required.
What is an epiretinal membrane?
An epiretinal membrane is a thin layer of scar tissue that forms over the retina. This membrane usually involves the macula and fovea which are responsible for the central vision. This can result in distorted vision. This scar tissue often forms because the vitreous, which is the gel inside the eye, pulls away from the retina, or as a result of inflammation or vascular problems that affect the eye. Although vision can become distorted from an epiretinal membrane, they do not cause blindness or severe loss of vision.
What problems can result from an epiretinal membrane?
Not all people with an epiretinal membrane will notice changes in their vision, however, the following can result:
- Double vision in one eye
- Distorted or blurred vision
- Wavy vision
- Difficulty reading smaller print
- Decrease in central vision (vision that sees straight ahead)
Vision problems usually occur once the scar tissue over the retina has shrunk and contracted. People will then usually have trouble reading, driving and carrying out tasks that require central vision.
What can put me at risk from an epiretinal membrane forming?
The following can increase the risk of an epiretinal membrane developing:
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Eye injuries
- Retinal tear or detachment
- Vascular problems
How can an epiretinal membrane be treated?
The only way to treat an epiretinal membrane effectively is through surgery. Unlike other eye conditions, wearing glasses or using eye drops won’t improve the symptoms caused by the epiretinal membrane. Surgery can correct the distortion in your central vision and is performed in the majority of cases under local anaesthetic.
The procedure is called a vitrectomy and involves the surgeon making tiny incisions into the eye so that the vitreous gel can be removed. Following this, the surgeon is able to gently remove the epiretinal membrane from the retina. If needed, stitches are used close the incisions, which dissolve naturally over the following weeks. Once the incisions are closed, a pad and protective shield will be used to cover the eye, which are removed the day after surgery.
What happens after surgery?
It is normal for your eye to feel a bit sore and gritty following surgery, with some pain as well which can be managed with paracetamol. Healing takes up to six weeks, but vision can take a few months to continue to improve.
What could happen if I don’t have surgery?
Not having surgery will not necessarily make the vision worse, and surgery will only be needed when the scar tissue has contracted, causing vision problems that affect everyday life. Surgery should only be considered if the distortion in your vision is causing problems, and it should not be used as a preventative measure.
Mr Felipe Dhawahir-Scala is an expert in this field. If you are concerned about your vision or you are experiencing distortion do not hesitate to make an appointment with Mr Dhawahir-Scala and he will be able to discuss the condition and management options in greater detail.