Epiretinal membrane

An epiretinal membrane is a thin sheet of fibrous tissue that develops on the surface of the macula and can cause problems with central vision.

What is epiretinal membrane?

If you think of your eye as a camera, the retina is like the photographic film.  It is a very thin layer of tissue, which is sensitive to the image focused on it, and sends information to the brain. At the very centre of the retina is the macula.  This is a very special area of the retina, which we use for reading and recognising complex shapes. 

Sometimes, scar tissue forms which grows across the macula.  As the membrane contracts, it causes distortion of the retinal tissue.  If this happens, the macula cannot work normally.  This affects the vision, particularly for reading and other visually demanding tasks, but it does not cause total blindness.

How epiretinal membranes affect vision

While the scar tissue is developing, it does not appear to affect your vision. However, when it stops growing, it contracts (shrinks) and causes distortion of your central vision – for example, straight lines appear wavy or crooked in appearance, and reading is difficult. Depending on the severity of this distortion, you might notice a substantial loss of central vision. . In some cases, patients only notice symptoms when one eye is covered –for example during an eye test at the optician.

What are the causes of epiretinal membrane?

In most cases, there is no underlying cause for the epiretinal membrane. 

Most epiretinal membranes happen because the vitreous (the jelly inside the eye) pulls away from the retina. This most commonly happens to people over the age of 50. The membrane may also form following eye surgery or inflammation inside the eye.

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