Some eye issues are more well-known than others. For example, most people have some understanding of what cataracts are and how they can interfere with our ability to see. But what if someone asked you questions about an Epiretinal Membrane? Could you answer them?

800px-Eye_iris.jpgIf not, you’re not alone: epiretinal membranes are not very well known among the general public. There are, however, vision issues that can affect anyone, even people without a history of vision issues. Because of this, it’s important to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of an epiretinal membrane so that you can report them to a doctor ASAP should they appear. 

What Is An Epiretinal Membrane?

“Epiretinal membrane” is a condition where thin fibrous tissues begin growing within the eye, creating a film-like covering over the macula. The macula is a section of the retina that sits at the back of the eye. It helps our eyes and brain create sharp, focused images. An epiretinal membrane, however, interferes with the macula’s ability to create a sharp visual picture and therefore results in vision problems. 

Who Can Get ERMs?

Medical research and clinical observations have found that epiretinal Membrane (ERM) or macular pucker affects a diverse range of individuals, although certain groups are more susceptible. Most notably, ERMs are more prevalent in those over the age of 50 and slightly more common in women than men.

The primary risk groups for ERMs include:

  • Older Adults: The likelihood of developing an ERM increases with age, particularly for those over 50.
  • Post-Surgical Patients: Individuals who have undergone certain eye surgical procedures, such as cataract surgery or procedures to repair a detached retina.
  • Patients with Eye Conditions: Those with specific eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, retinal vascular diseases, or retinal tears are at a higher risk.
  • Eye Injury Victims: People who have experienced trauma or injury to the eye.

What Are The Symptoms Of An Epiretinal Membrane?

Epiretinal membranes typically do not cause total blindness. In fact, in some cases, people may find that their vision is not impacted. It all depends on how severe or mild the developing epiretinal membrane becomes.

In extreme situations, an epiretinal membrane can lead to what's known as a 'macular pucker,' causing swelling within the retina itself and necessitating medical intervention.

Key symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Blurry Vision: This is often the first and most common symptom. It's due to the membrane interfering with the normal functioning of the retina.
  • Distorted Central Vision: Objects straight ahead may appear wavy or crooked, making it difficult to recognize faces or read small print.
  • Macular Pucker: This occurs when the membrane contracts, pulling on the retina and creating a 'puckering' effect within the macula. This can cause further distortion in vision.
  • Retinal Swelling: In severe cases, the membrane's pulling effect can cause swelling in the retina, leading to additional vision issues and a definite need for medical intervention.

What Are The Risk Factors and Causes for Epiretinal Membrane Development?

While some epiretinal membranes develop without a known cause, many can be traced back to one of several factors.

  • Aging: As individuals grow older, the chances of developing an ERM escalate.
  • Posterior Vitreous Detachment: This condition occurs when the gel-like substance filling the back of the eye separates from the retina, increasing the risk of ERM.
  • Retinal Tears or Detachment: Both involve damage to the retina - a retinal tear is a break in this layer, while retinal detachment happens when the retina pulls away from the back of the eye.
  • Eye Injuries: Any trauma to the eye can potentially trigger an ERM.
  • Eye Surgeries: Certain procedures, such as cataract surgery, can lead to the development of ERM.
  • Retinal Vascular Diseases: Conditions that affect the blood vessels in the eyes, such as diabetic retinopathy (common in people with diabetes), can cause ERM.
  • Existing ERM: Individuals with an ERM in one eye have a higher chance of developing it in the other.

While there are some risk factors that can increase your chances of developing an epiretinal membrane, they can really affect anyone, even those with no history of eye problems.

How Epiretinal Membranes Affect Vision?

Epiretinal membranes, thin layers of scar tissue over the retina, initially may not impact vision. However, when growth stops and contraction begins, it can distort your central vision. 

This distortion can make straight lines appear wavy or crooked, and reading may become challenging. The severity of these symptoms can range from mild to severe, in some cases leading to a significant loss of central vision. 

Thus, it's crucial to consult an eye specialist if you notice any changes in your vision.

How Are Epiretinal Membranes Treated?

This will depend on the severity of the epiretinal membrane. In some cases, it requires no treatment at all. If it is seriously affecting someone’s vision, however, a patient’s eye doctor may recommend epiretinal membrane surgery.

To ensure that you receive the treatment you may need for an eye problem such as an epiretinal membrane, be sure to schedule yearly eye exams with your ophthalmologist here at Everett & Hurite. Our staff works constantly to ensure that your vision will remain as healthy as possible so that you can continue to see clearly for years to come.

Related Conditions and Diagnostic Methods

Epiretinal membranes share symptoms with conditions like retinal vein occlusion, diabetic retinopathy, and retinal vascular diseases. Common symptoms include blurred vision and visual distortion. Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) is crucial for diagnosing these conditions, providing detailed images of the retinal layers and inner retina.

Get Your Expert Eye Care at Everett & Hurite 

Given that Epiretinal Membranes share symptoms with other eye conditions, proper diagnosis using techniques like Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) is essential. Consulting with experienced eye care professionals can ensure an accurate understanding of the condition and appropriate treatment recommendations.

At Everett & Hurite Eyecare Specialists, we are dedicated to providing exceptional eye care to our patients. Our team of experienced ophthalmologists and eye care professionals is well-equipped to diagnose and treat various eye conditions, including ERMs. With advanced diagnostic methods like Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), we can accurately assess the extent of the condition and develop a personalized treatment plan that suits your needs.

Don't ignore any changes in your vision or the potential signs of an Epiretinal Membrane. Take control of your eye health by scheduling a yearly eye exam with Everett & Hurite Eyecare Specialists. Our care team is here to guide you through the process, providing expert care and support every step of the way. 

Contact us today to ensure that your vision remains clear and healthy for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

 Are there any early warning signs of an epiretinal membrane that I should be aware of?

 Early signs might be subtle but can include slightly blurred or distorted vision, difficulty in reading fine print, or slight changes in how colors appear. If you notice any changes, it's advisable to consult an eye specialist.

Can using eye drops affect the retinal surface?

While some eye drops can cause temporary irritation or redness on the surface of the eye, they typically do not affect the retina. However, it's essential to follow proper instructions and only use prescribed eye drops to avoid any potential damage to your eyes. If you experience any abnormal symptoms after usin

g eye drops, consult your eye doctor immediately.

Why are retinal pigment epithelial cells important in the development of surface wrinkling retinopathy?

Retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells play a crucial role in maintaining the health and function of the retina. In surface wrinkling retinopathy, these cells can become damaged or malfunction, resulting in abnormal growth of tissue on the surface of the retina. This can lead to symptoms such as distorted vision and changes in color perception.  In cases of idiopathic epiretinal membrane surgery, RPE cells may also be affected and require careful consideration during the surgical procedure.