Not all epiretinal membranes require treatment. If your epiretinal membrane is very mild and has little or no effect on your vision then treatment will generally be unnecessary.
In more severe cases, epiretinal membrane may contract like scar tissue ‘puckering’ the retina and distorting your vision; resulting in the need for surgery to remove the membrane.
At Exeter Eye you will always be seen by a qualified ophthalmic surgeon with experience in the treatment of epiretinal membranes. They will carefully assess your symptoms and design a personalised treatment plan for you.
The treatment for more severe cases of epiretinal membranes is a surgical procedure called a ‘vitrectomy’. It is a relatively quick procedure that should take no more than one hour.
A vitrectomy is a procedure that treats disorders of the retina and vitreous. Vitrectomy refers to the removal of the vitreous, the clear, gel-like substance that fills the center of the eye.
An eye care professional may recommend vitrectomy surgery to treat eye problems such as, diabetic retinopathy, retinal detachments, macular hole, epiretinal membranes, also called macular puckers, bleeding inside the eye, vitreomacular traction syndrome, which is when the vitreous is pulling or tugging the retina from its normal position, infection inside the eye, or to remove small pieces of a cataract left in the eye after cataract surgery.
Before the procedure begins, local anesthesia and a mild sedative are administered for comfort and to keep the eye from moving. During the procedure, the surgeon inserts microsurgical instruments through tiny incisions made in the sclera, commonly known as the white of the eye. As the vitreous is removed, it is replaced with clear fluid, filtered air, gas bubble, or silicone oil. The fluid or gas is absorbed into the body over time and replaced by your natural eye fluid. If silicone oil is used, it does not reabsorb and is commonly removed in a few months following the procedure.
Vitrectomy surgery is often performed in conjunction with other procedures, such as retinal detachment repair, macular hole surgery, and macular membrane peel. The length of the surgery depends on whether additional procedures are required, and the overall health of the eye.
Your surgeon will use the latest ‘no-stitch’ surgical techniques to make tiny incisions in the white of your eye. This type of surgery means your eye will heal faster, and you should feel virtually no irritation after surgery.
Using highly specialised instruments, your surgeon will remove the vitreous gel from your eye and replace it with a special saline solution. Your surgeon will restore your normal vision by carefully detaching the epiretinal membrane from the surface of your macula, as well as the thin membrane of the retina if it has become puckered by the epiretinal membrane.
Your eye will usually be treated with steroids or air and laser or freezing treatments, which aid healing and speed up recovery.
In most cases you will be able to go home straight after surgery and resume non-strenuous activities the day after.
It can take three to twelve months for your vision to improve fully. How much and how soon your vision improves after surgery depends on a number of factors such as your age and how far the epiretinal membrane has advanced.
It is important to see a specialist sooner rather than later because, if left untreated, an epiretinal membrane may cause permanent damage to your vision.
Most patients have better vision after epiretinal membrane surgery and regaining perfect vision isn’t unusual.
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Exeter Eye is a specialist ophthalmic eye clinic treating all eye conditions and offering the very best in patient care and comfort. We always ensure we fully understand your condition and lifestyle before identifying your treatment options and then help you choose the best one for you.