If you think of the eye like a camera, the retina is the photographic film at the back of the eye. The centre portion is called the macula and this is the area we use to read and recognise faces.
An Epiretinal membrane is a thin film of transparent scar tissue that develops over the surface of the macula. In early cases, it may cause no symptoms and be picked up on a routine retinal examination.
As the membrane thickens and contracts, it causes distortion of the underlying retina, which interferes with the normal working of the macula. Eventually, this causes blurring and distortion of vision, which is particularly noticeable when reading or undertaking visually demanding tasks.
Epiretinal Membranes are quite common and seen in about 7-10% of the population. Most Epiretinal membranes (ERM’s) develop following a Posterior Vitreous Detachment (PVD). During this normal process, the vitreous separates away from the retina, but in some patients a small part is left attached at the macula. This tissue can thicken and contract, resulting in an ERM.
ERM’s less commonly develop after Retinal Vein Occlusion,Retinal Tears, Uveitis or following Eye Surgery.
I usually treat Epiretinal Membranes with an operation known as a Vitrectomy. I can combine this with Cataract Surgery, if required.
During vitrectomy, I insert very fine instruments through the white of your eye, into the back of the eye and I slowly cut and suck away the vitreous jelly.
I often use the newest and finest 27 Gauge Instruments, but sometimes use larger 25 Gauge Instruments for very thick Epiretinal membranes. The benefit of 27 Gauge instruments is the quicker healing times!
Because the Epiretinal Membrane Tissue is usually clear, I use a special dye to stain the Epiretinal Membrane Tissue blue so it becomes clearly visible. I can then remove it with ultra fine tweezer like forceps.
After the vitreous and ERM are removed, I search the retina for any other problems, such as retinal tears, and I can treat those too. Once this is all done, I replace the vitreous jelly with either a clear salt solution or a gas bubble. The bubble makes your vision very blurry for 1-2 weeks, but helps the retina to heal up. I will discuss this with you in detail, depending on the status of your eye.