Considering that most people have never heard of an epiretinal membrane, or macular pucker, being told that you have one might come as a shock. While the condition is fairly rare, approximately 2% of people over the age of 50 have evidence of ERMs in their eyes. The good news is that most macular puckers don’t cause significant symptoms, and some can even spontaneously release themselves from the retina and relieve you of your vision symptoms. However, there is a chance that your eye specialist will recommend treatment, and knowing what to expect can help you start planning for your procedure.
Who Is at Risk of Developing an Epiretinal Membrane?
Age is a factor in who develops epiretinal membrane, but you could also be at risk if you’ve experienced a posterior vitreous detachment, which is when the vitreous pulls away from the retina of your eye. They are also more common in people with health conditions that affect their eye health, such as diabetic retinopathy. Occasionally, a person will develop a macular pucker after surgery or an infection causes inflammation of the delicate retinal tissue.
When Do Epiretinal Membranes Require Treatment?
After the initial period of growth, the majority of ERMs stay fairly stable. Your doctor can make a diagnosis by using a special imaging test called Ocular Coherence Tomography that lets them identify the severity of your condition. If you aren’t having symptoms, then your retinal specialist that Brooklyn residents trust may recommend monitoring your condition to see if it worsens.
However, you’ll likely need treatment if you have symptoms that impair your vision. The most common symptom that is associated with ERMs is seeing wavy distortions in objects that should be straight. Occasionally, some people may also have double or blurry vision that negatively impacts their normal activities.
What Is a Vitrectomy?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a topical ointment or drop that can make macular puckers go away. Instead, vitreoretinal surgery is the procedure that your eye specialist will most likely recommend. During a vitrectomy, your eye doctor will use highly specialized equipment to replace the vitreous filling in your eye with saline to gain access to the part of your retina where the ERM exists. Then, they’ll carefully lift away the ERM, which allows the macula to relax and become less puckered.
How Long Does Visual Recovery Take?
The risks associated with this type of surgery are low, especially when you work with a retinal disease specialist that is highly experienced. Although visual recovery tends to be slow, most people begin to see positive changes within about three months. By the one-year mark, you should notice improved visual acuity that includes no longer seeing wavy distortions.
Paying attention to new or developing symptoms in your vision allows you to identify common eye conditions faster. Yet, you might not know that you have an ERM until you see your eye doctor for a thorough exam. Even if all you need is watchful waiting, knowing that you have a competent eye doctor checking on your condition gives you confidence that you’ll know when it’s time to treat an ERM to preserve your vision.