The eye is like a camera with a lens and film in the back of the eye. The retina is the light sensitive film at the back of the eye. An epiretinal membrane is a condition where a thin layer of scar tissue forms on the surface of the retina. When this membrane grows over an area called macula (an important area responsible for our sharp central vision) on the retina, it causes wrinkling and crumples up the macula lead to distorted and/or blurred vision.
In the majority of cases, epiretinal membrane develops due to the normal aging changes inside the eye. In some cases, it can be related to other conditions like diabetes, blockage of retinal blood vessels, inflammation or previous retinal surgery. Epiretinal membrance affects about 8% of people in later years.
In many cases, epiretinal membrane is an incidental diagnosis made during your routine eye examination and your vision may not be affected. These epiretinal membranes tend not to change and do not affect your vision, so treatment may not be necessary. However, if they do get worse and if you have significant distortion and/or blurring of your vision, then the only way to treat it is to remove the membrane surgically.
The epiretinal membrane is removed by an operation called a vitrectomy and epiretinal membrane peel. This involves a surgical procedure whereby the vitreous jelly is removed from inside the eye and the membrane is delicately peeled away from the central part of the retina. The operation can be performed under local or general anaesthesia as a day case procedure, which usually takes about an hour.
Common complications to be aware of include:
- Cataract (clouding of the natural lens of the eye, Sometimes cataract is also removed at the same time as the epiretinal membrance removal)
- Retinal detachment in 1 – 2%
- Recurrence of membrane in 1 – 2%
- Ending up with worse vision after surgery in about 2 %
- Bleeding – very rare but if severe it can result in blindness
- Infection – very rare about 1 in 1000, but can lead to blindness
- Persistently raised eye pressure in about 1 %
Epiretinal membrane surgery is a major operation and it is normal to experience some discomfort in the eye following surgery.. In some cases, special gas bubble is left inside the eye which will dissolve on its own after few weeks. If gas is used, you may be asked to position your head in a certain way for some part of the day for up to 7 days. The white of the eye may appear red with swelling to the eyelid. You may have some watering of the eye and a gritty sensation in the eye which slowly disappears in few days. You will be given eye drops to use for few weeks. . You can shower or bath but avoid getting water directly into the eye, abstain from unhygienic environments and anything that puts the eye at risk of injury.
You will be reviewed usually after one week and again after 4 weeks. Your vision in that eye will be blurred for a few weeks after the operation but it should improve slowly over time and this can take up to six months. Your surgeon will discuss your final expected visual outcome of your surgery. If you have any concerns, please discuss this with your surgeon.
You will need rest from work for about two weeks. We advise against driving for the first few weeks while the vision improves. However, any work-related or driving related concerns should be discussed with your surgeon.
Understanding epiretinal membrane surgery can be complicated. The information given above will not cover all the concerns you may have about this procedure.
Further information can be found at the following websites:
The information mentioned here is based on a variety of sources, including latest published research and the Britain & Eire Association of Vitreoretinal Surgeons.
This must not be used as a substitute for professional medical care by a qualified doctor or other health care professional. Always check with your doctor if you have any concerns about your condition or treatment. We are not responsible or liable, directly or indirectly, for ANY form of damages whatsoever resulting from the use (or misuse) of information contained in this page or found on web pages linked to from this page.