Epiretinal membrane (ERM) is a common retinal degeneration affecting up to ten percent of people over 60 years old. In essence, a layer of “scar” tissue forms over the surface of the retina, usually over the macula. This scar tissue can cause distortion of your vision, trouble reading or close-up hobbies (e.g. sewing), blurred vision, or the feeling of looking through a “fog” or “smear”.
Epiretinal membrane is a very common condition – occurring in up to 10% of people. There are some known causes, and it is important you are checked out for these to exclude serious problems such as retinal breaks, inflammatory disorders, and diabetes. However, in most patients there is no cause and it is simply an “ageing” change.
The majority of people with epiretinal membrane have no symptoms and require no treatment. We will talk to you to find out what trouble you are having and whether you are a candidate for surgery.
Patients requiring treatment for epiretinal membrane need vitrectomy surgery. Vitrectomy is another miracle of modern medicine: the vitreous within the eye is removed through instruments that are less than a millimetre in diameter, and using a specially-designed microscope. The incisions allowing access to the vitreous do not require sutures. Dr Reddie is one of the very few eye surgeons in the country selected to be trained to the exacting standard required to perform this type of very delicate surgery.
Surgery for epiretinal membrane involves removal of the vitreous (vitrectomy), allowing access to the membrane which is then removed by grasping with forceps and removing it manually. This membrane is less than one-hundredth of a millimetre thick.
Your vision will slowly improve after epiretinal membrane surgery – it often takes 6-12 months to achieve the maximum benefit from surgery, or even longer. However, patients with distortion or difficulty reading often achieve symptom relief much more quickly.
Vitrectomy in the modern era is an effective procedure, with a good safety profile.
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