What is Epiretinal Membrane?

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  • Written By: Nat Robinson
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2018
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Epiretinal membrane is a thin layer of tissue that can develop on the macular area of the retina. The retina is a clear layer of tissue located at the back of the eye. It is responsible for vision by sending signals through the optic nerve into the brain, which processes the signals and enables sight. Near the center of the eye's retina is the macula, which is responsible for central vision.

The macular area of the retina is typically the site of epiretinal membrane development. Other names for epiretinal membranes may include premacular fibrosis, cellophane maculopathy, and macular pucker. This generally slow growing condition may occur in connection with other retinal diseases or disorders, such as trauma and retinal detachment. If the condition occurs as a result of one of these conditions, it may be considered as secondary. If it develops without any prior eye problem, it is known as ideopathic.

Generally, development of a epirethinal membrane is more commonly seen in older adults. Symptoms may include vision distortion and blurring as the central vision becomes affected. Epiretinal membranes may also cause swelling if the macula begins to be pulled on by the membrane.


Cellular changes occurring in the back of the eye, including the proliferation of normal cells, can cause this condition. Many cases are mild and may not be significant enough to effect vision. In the cases where the condition may grow more prominent, a visual disturbance may occur. This may be caused by a wrinkling or distortion in the macula.

An epiretinal membrane diagnosis may be made by an ophthalmologist after a complete eye examination. An ophthalmoscope is typically used to diagnose the condition. This diagnostic tool allows the doctor to view the eye thoroughly for abnormalities. Other tests may be conducted to determine the extent of any disease found.

Every patient with epiretinal membranes may not require treatment. It may only be necessary to seek treatment if the condition is causing a visual disturbance. Patients seeking treatment may opt for an epiretinal membrane removal, which can be performed with surgery.

Vitrectomy is the surgical procedure used to remove the afflicting membrane from the macular area of the retina. Vision can be improved by this procedure through the smoothing out of the macula. It is generally performed in an outpatient setting, and some type of anesthesia is commonly used. Treatment with this procedure usually improves vision significantly within several weeks to a few months following the surgery.

Patients with vision problems should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. An ophthalmologist can make a proper diagnosis of epiretinal membrane. The doctor will also be able to suggest the best method of treatment. Only patients with visual disturbances may need any treatment at all, as many individuals with this condition experience no serious symptoms.



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