An epiretinal membrane, also known as a macular pucker, is a thin layer of scar tissue that forms over the macula, the center part of the retina that is located at the back of the eye. The macula is the area of the retina that provides clear, sharp central vision.
Causes of an Epiretinal Membrane
An epiretinal membrane often develops as part of the natural aging process. The vitreous gel, which makes up most of the eye's volume, begins to thin and pull away from the retina. As a result, damage is caused to the retina and leads to the formation of scar tissue on the retina. When the scar tissue contracts, the retina wrinkles, or puckers, causing blurry or distorted central vision.
Wrinkling of the retina can be caused by:
- Vitreous detachment
- Traumatic ocular injury or inflammation
- Ocular blood vessel abnormalities
- Retinal detachment or retinal tearing
Symptoms of an Epiretinal Membrane
Patients with an epiretinal membrane may experience difficulty seeing fine details and reading small print, and may also see straight lines appear as wavy. There may also be a gray area or blind spot in the center of the vision. While the cause of the condition is similar to that of a macular hole, an epiretinal membrane is different. A macular hole is usually a much more serious condition that can progressively worsen.
Diagnosis of an Epiretinal Membrane
After a thorough examination of the eye, a physician at Retina Macula Specialists of Miami will perform a series of diagnostic tests. These tests may include:
- Dilated eye examination
- Fluorescein angiography
- Optical coherence tomography (OCT)
Treatment of an Epiretinal Membrane
Most cases of an epiretinal membrane do not progress and do not require treatment. The symptoms of distortion and blurriness are usually mild and patients are able to adjust to the vision changes without much impact on their daily lives. Noninvasive treatments such as eye drops or medications will not improve vision that is distorted from an epiretinal membrane. If visual distortion is severe, a vitrectomy may be performed to repair this condition. During a vitrectomy the vitreous humor is removed from the eye followed by the scar tissue. This allows the macula to flatten out into a more normal configuration.