What is an Epiretinal Membrane?
Epiretinal membrane is fibrous tissue (scar tissue) that forms on the top of the retina.¹ Epiretinal membranes are also referred to as ERMs, cellophane maculopathy or macular puckers.² There are often no symptoms associated with ERMs, but some patients experience vision loss or vision distortion in the affected eye if the size of the ERM is large enough to cover and deform the macula.²
Aging is associated with the development of ERMs, and the average age of diagnosis is around 65 years old.¹ Other retinal conditions may lead to the development of ERMs in younger populations.²
There are relatively few treatment options for ERMs. Some will clear on their own, while other ERMs require surgery if symptoms worsen or the ERM is affecting vision.²
- Epiretinal membranes are relatively harmless scars on the top part of the retina.
- Age and other eye conditions can lead to the development of epiretinal membranes.
- Treatment options for epiretinal membranes are limited.
- Some cases resolve on their own, while other patients require surgery to correct vision.
Understanding Epiretinal Membrane
An eye doctor can typically diagnose an epiretinal membrane during a regular eye exam by examining the retina.² The retina is the back part of the eye that receives and transmits light, allowing us to see. The macula is the center part of the retina and allows us to see fine details and colors.
If an epiretinal membrane is large enough to cover and deform the macula, patients can experience blurred, distorted or double vision.²
Epiretinal Membrane Risk Factors
In addition to aging, there are some risk factors that contribute to developing ERMs. People who have other eye conditions like diabetic retinopathy or retinal detachment or have had other eye surgeries may experience an ERM.²Some patients experience ERMs due to inflammation inside the eye.²
Diagnosing Epiretinal Membrane
An eye doctor can spot an ERM during a routine eye exam, however, they may use additional imagining, like Ocular Coherence Tomography (OCT), to assess the severity.² An eye doctor may also perform additional screening to check for other underlying retinal and ocular problems.
Treatment Options for an Epiretinal Membrane
Treatment options are limited for ERMs, and typically reserved for patients who experience vision changes, such as distorted vision, central vision problems, double vision and decreased visual acuity. There are no eye drops or medications for ERMs. An eye doctor (retina surgeon) may perform epiretinal membrane surgery called vitrectomy and membrane peel. With this type of surgery, the vitreous gel inside the eye is removed and the ERM is peeled using fine forceps.² Most patients will experience improved vision after the surgery, but many still experience some degree of visual distortion.