Epiretinal Membrane

Sunday, Aug 2, 2020 by Nisha Gupta, MD

We will be discussing epiretinal membranes (ERM) this month.

What is an epiretinal membrane?

Epiretinal membranes are thin layers of tissue that form just above the retina surface. They are found in the macula, the area that controls the central vision.

What are the causes and risk factors for developing an ERM?

Usually these form as a person gets older. Certain conditions can promote the formation of an ERM including diabetes, inflammation in the eye, blockages of blood vessels in the eye, or tears in the retina. Trauma to the eye and prior eye surgery can also be associated with epiretinal membranes.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptom is blurry central vision. Distortions in the vision and difficulty with fine details can also occur. Usually this affects one eye, but it can also affect both eyes.

How is an epiretinal membrane diagnosed?

A comprehensive exam including checking the vision and dilating the eyes is needed to diagnose an epiretinal membrane. The dilated exam allows doctors to look at the macula and see the membrane on the retina.

An optical coherence tomography (OCT) photo also helps to see the ERM above the normal layers of the retina.

epiretinal membrane

Epiretinal membrane. Image Source 1

The arrow in this photo shows the thin shiny membrane sitting above the retina.

How are these treated?

Many patients do not require any treatment with this condition. If it does not affect the vision, it is safe to leave the membrane alone and have an annual exam to monitor it.

If the ERM is affecting the vision enough to disrupt daily activities, surgery is an option. There is no medical treatment for an ERM. Usually having surgery improves the vision, but there are some patients who do not notice any change in vision even after an uncomplicated surgery. This should be discussed with the doctor to ensure that surgery is the best option.

Return next month for a new topic!

  1. Image courtesy of Nisha Gupta, MD [return]

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