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Most epiretinal membranes happen because the vitreous (the jelly inside the eye) pulls away from the retina. The retina is that sensitive layer of tissue lining the inside of the back of the eye. At the very center of the retina is the macula. This is a very special area we use for reading and recognising complex shapes.
Sometimes, scar tissue forms (as a result of infection for example), which then grows across the macular, that subsequently contracts. As the membrane puckers or contracts along with the scar tissue, it causes distortion. This affect the vision, particularly for reading and other visual tasks – for example, straight lines appear wavy or crooked in appearance, making reading difficult. Depending on the severity of this distortion, you might notice significant loss of your central vision.
Obvious retinal membranes can be identified during routine eye examinations during the ophthalmoscopy and in many cases, your vision is not affected as most types of ERMs do not change and cause vision changes.
Some ERM do however deteriorate and cause blurring and visual disturbances. As part of our advanced eye care package an OCT of the macular and analysis of the layers of the retina will enable the diagnosis and so confirm ERM. Fluorescein angiography may also be used to confirm diagnosis if in further doubt.
The only way to treat an epiretinal membrane, if it affects your vision, is to have an operation called a vitrectomy. This is where the surgeon makes tiny cuts in your eye and removes the vitreous from inside. They gently peel away the epiretinal membrane from the retina. Usually small stitches in the eye are made to secure the retina in place. These dissolve naturally over about four to six weeks. At the end of the operation, you wear a shield over your eye to protect it. This is removed the morning after your surgery.