The chances of you finding this page only lead to two assumptions: first, you may be exhibiting symptoms of epiretinal membrane; second, a family or someone close to you may be the ones showing signs of it.
This article has been written especially for people affected by an epiretinal membrane.
What is epiretinal membrane?
An Epiretinal Membrane is an eye condition that involves the development of a very thin layer of scar tissue on the top part of the retina called the macula.
What is macula?
The macula is the part of the retina that works to sharpen our central vision that is vital in seeing tenuous details in certain activities like face recognition or reading. It is made up of unique nerve cells that help keep our vision clear.
What happens when epiretinal membrane develops in the macula?
When an epiretinal membrane develops above the macula, it causes the sight to be blurry or altered. For example, a person with ERM may mistake straight lines for crooked ones at first sight.
What are the symptoms of epiretinal membrane?
Symptoms of the epiretinal membrane are not noticeable initially, but its degree of severity can quickly worsen if left unwatched. It is highly encouraged that people who may be affected by epiretinal membrane should immediately seek an eye specialist’s advice when these symptoms are present:
- Blurry or altered vision
- Difficulty of the vision to focus on fine details or see things at a distance, especially when driving or reading the small print
- Double vision
- Loss of central vision
- Wavy vision
Who is affected by epiretinal membrane?
Anyone can be affected by the epiretinal membrane. However, the risks may be higher in some.
A study made in the US found that the epiretinal membrane mostly affects adults that are over 50 years of age. When it comes to gender, the risk of men contracting this condition is lesser than that of women.
Interestingly, another research that studied different races accounted that almost 40% of people that showed signs of epiretinal membrane belonged to the Chinese race, followed by Africans, Caucasians, and Hispanics, which were all reported to have at least 30% of people affected with epiretinal membrane respectively.
What are the causes of epiretinal membrane?
People who already have a pre-existing eye condition are at a major risk of getting epiretinal membrane due to the following causes:
- Diseases that affect the retina, such as diabetic retinopathy, which is a kind of vascular disease commonly associated with people diagnosed with diabetes
- Eye injuries
- Eye surgeries, especially for people with cataracts
- Separation of the posterior vitreous (gel-like substance in the back of the eye) from the retina
In addition, a person that has developed an epiretinal membrane in one eye also has a greater risk of causing the unaffected eye to contract this condition.
What are the risks of epiretinal membrane?
It is not a hidden fact that our body weakens with age. The risk of our eyes being affected by epiretinal membrane increases gradually as we get old. People who currently have an eye condition have a higher risk in developing ERM even before reaching 50 years old.
Although certain people may be categorised as having a higher probability of developing the epiretinal membrane, the chance of actually getting this condition may or may not happen.
How is epiretinal membrane diagnosed?
As with any condition affecting the eyes, a thorough eye examination is used to diagnose the epiretinal membrane. An optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a type of diagnostic test that can effectively diagnose the epiretinal membrane. A simple vision test may not be efficient in identifying the presence of epiretinal membrane as there are instances when the vision remains perfectly unaffected despite its existence. Optical coherence tomography makes use of light waves to examine the retina and scrutinise each of its layers in order to accurately determine signs and symptoms of epiretinal membrane.
Another test that may be used is called fluorescein angiography. A dye is used to light up areas of the retina to expose epiretinal membranes that may be present in the macula.
Upon diagnosis, the doctor can advise getting the epiretinal membrane treated, especially if it already affects the vision of the patient. Most cases do not need treatment, but they have to be monitored carefully to avoid getting worse.
How is epiretinal membrane treated?
A vitrectomy surgery procedure is needed to treat the epiretinal membrane. This operation is done through the following steps:
- The eye surgeon makes small incisions into the eye affected by the epiretinal membrane and drains the liquid from the eye.
- After draining the fluid, the doctor takes hold of the epiretinal membrane and proceeds to peel off the scar from the retina.
- Once the epiretinal membrane is extracted from the eye, the fluid is then replaced.
- The operated eye is then covered with a patch for protection against harm or infection.
Vitrectomy surgery is an outpatient operation. A patient may immediately return home after the surgery without being confined in the hospital.
It has been reported that successful operations have a 20 to 50% chance of 20/40 vision improvement. This means that a person will be able to see objects clearly at a distance of 20 feet what another person with normal perfect vision can see at 40 feet.
What is the aftercare for a vitrectomy surgery?
Patients should have a guardian with them on the day of the surgery as they will need support after the surgery has given that their vision is limited. An eye drop prescription will be given by the doctor. This medication will help in the recovery of the eye. The administration of the drops should be given by the doctor or staff in order to get optimum results.
During the healing stage of the eye, physical activities may be put at a minimum by your doctor. Instructions on how to position the head during sleeping or doing certain activities will be given and should be followed for a certain number of days after the operation.
How long does it take for the vision to improve after surgery?
It may take as long as 3 months for a person’s vision to improve. In some cases, patients may notice improved vision right after the surgery.
Are there other treatments available aside from surgery?
Unfortunately, the only treatment that can improve the eye condition of people diagnosed with the epiretinal membrane is vitrectomy surgery. Eyeglasses, contact lenses, or eye drops do not provide any known cure or improvement.
Are there risks with vitrectomy surgery?
A cataract is one of the major risks of undergoing vitrectomy surgery to remove the epiretinal membrane. Most operations are reportedly successful with no risk developed. Two minor risks that have been noted are post-operation infection and detachment of the retina, though the occurrences of these affect 1 out of 2,000 people for infections and 1 out of a hundred for retinal detachment.
Is there a way to avoid developing epiretinal membrane?
A sure way of protection from contracting epiretinal membrane is slim. No one is exempted from developing this eye condition. However, prevention may be done, especially for people that are highly at risk in getting epiretinal membrane, like those diagnosed with retinal disease. An example of this disease is diabetic retinopathy. People with diabetes can avoid having epiretinal membrane by taking good care of their health and managing their diabetic condition.