The macula is the central part of the retina and is responsible for the ability to see fine details. An epiretinal membrane is a thin, transparent sheet of scar tissues that lays across the retina, including the macula. The membrane can cause wrinkles in the retina which can cause visual distortion. An epiretinal membrane may also be called a macular pucker.
Symptoms of epiretinal membranes include blurred vision, distortion, and waviness in straight lines. These symptoms can range from mild to severe.
A dilated exam will allow an ophthalmologist to view the retina and diagnose an epiretinal membrane. Diagnostic testing, such as optical coherence tomography (OCT), can confirm the diagnosis and see how much the membrane distorts the retina.
Not all epiretinal membranes require treatment. If a membrane is mild and the patient experiences no visual symptoms, the membrane may be observed. If the membrane causes visual symptoms, including blurred or distorted vision, an outpatient procedure called a vitrectomy surgery and membrane peel can be performed. During the surgery, the vitreous gel is removed from the eye and replaced with fluid and the membrane is delicately peeled from the retina. Air or gas are NOT typically required for this surgery.
After surgery for an epiretinal membrane, it may take several weeks for the retina to heal and visual improvement to be noticed. Depending on the severity and duration of the epiretinal membrane, patients will have different visual outcomes following surgery. As with any surgical procedure, there are risks and benefits that will be discussed with your physician prior to surgery.