What is it?
The epiretinal membranes are types of membranes that are due to the growth of scar tissue on the surface of the macula. The macula is a small area located in the centre of the retina, which allows us to see fine details clearly. When this membrane contracts, the retina tissue is distorted, and folds or wrinkles form on the surfact of the macula, altering its functionality.
There is a range of causes, the most common being posterior vitreous detachment. With the passing of time, the vitreous gel may detach from the posterior part of the retina, thereby stimulating the appearance of fibrous tissue on the same, which upon contracting, will make it distorted. Other less common causes are: intraocular inflammation, retina detachment or severe eye trauma.
The symptoms of epiretinal membrane range from mild to severe, and may affect one or both eyes. They usually appear after the age of 50 and are more common in people over the age of 70. There is a loss of central vision, it can be blurry or distorted which hinders reading, or doing tasks up close. In severe cases, there may be a central area without any vision (scotoma), while the peripheral vision stays intact.
The diagnosis is simple, done by examining the retina with a slit lamp and assessing the degree of development using an optical coherence tomography (OCT). This shows the membrane in detail and quantifies that distortion it causes to the surface of the retina.
In incipient cases, surgery is not usually necessary. Regular check-ups with an OCT are recommended. When there is a gradual reduction in vision or if the perception of distorted objects (metamorphopsia) increases, surgery (vitrectomy) can be performed to remove the membrane.
Using the right instruments, an expert surgeon separates the membrane from the surface of the macula, "peeling it away" delicately. Once this tissue is free, the macula flattens out and the eyesight is gradually restored. This surgery is usually performed under local anaesthetic and is an outpatients surgery.
In this case, instead of prevention, we talk about early detection through eye check-ups with a retina specialist using avant-garde technology that will determine the need for treatment and the prognosis of this pathology.