Is Epiretinal Membrane a Serious Condition?

 Is Epiretinal Membrane a Serious Condition?

Epiretinal membrane (ERM) is a condition that occurs when the retina detaches from its normal position and instead pushes against the inside of an area in your eye called the vitreous. This results in excessive fluid build-up in the space between the retina and the vitreous, which is what causes a number of associated vision problems. 

You’d need appointments and careful eye exams at reputed Eye Clinics like Asia Retina in Singapore to diagnose this condition and manage it to prevent severe complications. Symptoms may include:

  • Loss of vision or changes to your vision such as halos around lights at night, glares, or blurred vision
  • Swelling or bulging the eye, especially if the membrane is on the macula. If this happens, it can cause a central blind spot in your vision and may interfere with reading and everyday activities such as driving.
  • Floaters (shadowy spots that appear to float about in front of your eyes)
  • A curtain or veil over your vision
  • A shadow cast by an eyelash on the retina

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is advised that you see an eye care professional as soon as possible, as it can lead to loss of vision if left untreated. Symptoms can range from mild to severe.

Is Epiretinal Membrane Serious, how is it Treated, and what are the Risks Associated with Treatment?

Epiretinal membrane (ERM) is one of several conditions that cause a retinal detachment: when there’s a tear or hole in the retina and fluid starts building up underneath. The presence of this extra fluid causes several problems, including difficulty seeing through the affected area, severe pain, and swelling around the macula – which is at the back of your eye and is responsible for much of your central vision.

Surgical treatment (vitrectomy) may be performed to remove the membrane, which can improve or restore vision. It’s also believed that treating epiretinal membrane early on will reduce the risk of further complications later on, such as macular pucker and macular hole formation.

The surgery is considered complicated as it requires removing vitreous gel from the center of the eye, replacing it with saline solution, and then reattaching the retina; however, this operation has a very high success rate when performed by an individual experienced eye surgeon. Even though there are risks associated with any kind of surgery, including developing cataracts and retinal tears, the surgery is considered safe and effective.

Is there a way to prevent the Epiretinal Membrane from Developing in the First Place?

Unfortunately, no one knows exactly what causes epiretinal membrane (ERM). There are some possible risk factors such as: having previously undergone cataract procedures, diabetes; high blood pressure; and old age.

Medical research suggests that those people who have had a retinal detachment or other problems with their retina should watch for symptoms of an epiretinal membrane, particularly if they experience: halos around lights at night; glare or blurred vision; swelling or bulging of the eye – especially if it’s on the macula which can cause a central blind spot in your vision and may interfere with reading and everyday activities such as driving.

Risk factors that can increase the chances of developing epiretinal membrane include: older age, previous retinal detachment or eye injury, cataract surgery history, myopia, glaucoma, high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, and myopic choroidal neovascularization 

What are some of the Long-term Effects of having an Epiretinal Membrane? 

Having a large epiretinal membrane on the macula can potentially cause a central blind spot that affects your vision for daily activities such as reading and driving. In some cases where there is swelling from fluid build-up under the retina at the macula, you may need surgery to correct vision.

Vision loss can occur if an epiretinal membrane causes a macular hole or pucker. The exact symptoms depend on where and how big the membrane is and the types of cells and tissues it affects: for instance, whether thin and clear or thick and white. 

It’s important to note that if the ERM blocks your direct line of vision (center), there won’t be any noticeable symptoms; whereas, with epiretinal membranes that affect peripheral (side) vision such as those with a serous detachment of the retina, they can cause vision loss in one eye which includes: decrease in sharpness; distortion; shadows; light flashes; blind spots; loss of peripheral vision.

The epiretinal membrane can cause other problems, including increased pressure in your eye (glaucoma), which can lead to blindness within a few months if untreated. Another serious eye condition that may be associated with epiretinal membrane is retinal detachment causing loss of vision due to the splitting or tearing of the retina from its natural position at the back of the eye.

If this happens before, during, or after surgery for the epiretinal membrane, it’s important to get immediate medical attention so you don’t go permanently blind since it can develop rapidly and cause severe pain during an attack. The treatment options are limited if the retina has detached, but surgery may help restore vision in the long term.

How can People living with Epiretinal Membrane Lead a Normal Life?

If you have an epiretinal membrane, you should avoid smoking because this affects blood flow in your body and is associated with worse outcomes following surgery for macular hole formation caused by epiretinal membranes. Depending on your symptoms, there are several treatment options, including observation with regular eye examinations; medication or injections to reduce swelling and control fluid build-up; laser therapy to help shrink the membrane and improve your vision. 

In most cases, surgery can be used to remove large epiretinal membranes from the macula, which is the part of your retina responsible for central, detailed vision. If an epiretinal membrane also causes a macular hole or pucker – rare complications that result in reduced central vision – then a vitrectomy will be required to fix it.

Wrapping Up

Even though the Epiretinal membrane often doesn’t cause symptoms, it can affect your vision and make you blind if not treated. Most types of epiretinal membranes can be removed with surgery, but this is only an option if they’re thin and clear (not white or thick). Smoking is bad for you in general, but it’s especially bad if you have an epiretinal membrane because it can increase the chances of developing vision loss. Get in touch with us now if you have any concerns with your vision to organize an eye exam. Call: +65 6732 0007 or +65 9118 0007


Asia Retina – Eye specialist (Ophthalmologist) in Singapore, Dr Claudine Pang

#15-10 The Paragon, 290 Orchard Rd, 238859

+65 6732 0007

Michael Burden