1. Epiretinal membranes can cause some vision loss.
The Epiretinal membrane (ERMs) is the thin, nearly transparent layer of fibrous tissue that can form a film on the inner surface, or macula, of the retina. The presence of these membranes can cause mild vision loss and makes images look blurry to people affected.
People who have epiretinal membranes also observe that straight lines appear wavy instead, and the effects can worsen over time. Having epiretinal membranes will not cause total blindness, and there are cases where they have no effect on vision at all. However, even if no symptoms are observed at first, it can cause a gradual loss or distortion of vision over time.
2. Most people with epiretinal membranes are over the age of 50.
If you have not yet reached the age of 50, then there is little to worry about having epiretinal membranes. Medical studies have shown that about 2% of people over 50 and 20% of those over 75 have ERMs. Most studies have also shown that males and females are equally affected by epiretinal membranes. 80% of people with epiretinal membranes only have them in one eye. Having ERMs often display no symptoms and are difficult to detect if so.
3. Epiretinal membranes are generally observed and are rarely treated.
Epiretinal membranes have very few observable symptoms and may display no symptoms at all. If there are no symptoms or the symptoms are very mild, which is true in most cases, then the condition is only observed for research and will not need any treatment. However, if the symptoms are severe, then it is recommended that you see an eye specialist immediately, such as Dr Claudine Pang, one of the recognized eye retina surgeons not only in Singapore but also internationally.
4. Severe symptoms of epiretinal membranes include double vision and wavy vision.
If the epiretinal membranes are severe, it can distort your vision. People with ERMs have reported to experience blurry vision as well as causing normally straight lines to appear wavy instead. Double vision also occurs, especially in cases where ERMs only affect a single eye. It can make it hard for affected people to read small text.
As we age, a natural change in our eyes occurs wherein the vitreous gel that fills the eyes separates from the retina. This causes some micro-tears in the retina which also results in glial cells growing in a membranous sheet on its inner surface. This membranous sheet can contract over time, which causes the pulling and puckering of the retina and results in epiretinal membranes. Other possible causes of ERMs include eye injuries and surgeries, as well as retinal vascular diseases which affect the eye’s blood vessels. It has also been documented that having ERMs in one eye increases the chance of developing it in the other eye as well.
6. Epiretinal membranes can be diagnosed during routine eye checkups.
Although ERMs are undetectable in a lot of cases where it displays no symptoms, routine eye exams can determine if you have a severe case of epiretinal membranes. If you experience some vision disturbance, such as having blurry vision, your doctor may suggest you undergo treatment for it. Some tests that an eye specialist may perform to confirm the presence of epiretinal membranes include optical coherence tomography (OCT) and fluorescein angiography.
7. Eating food that is beneficial for the eyes can reduce the risk of developing epiretinal membranes.
If you want to lessen the chance of developing ERMs, then following a healthy diet that is good for the eyes can help. Some of the food that can help include:
- Green leafy vegetables – These are packed with antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin, which lowers the chance of macular degeneration and cataracts. They are also rich in vitamins C and E – essential vitamins for the body as a whole.
- Fatty fish – Salmon, tuna and trout are all fatty fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA. These omega-3 fatty acids are needed by your retina to function well and can also protect your eyes from other conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and glaucoma.
- Nuts and legumes – Another food rich in omega-3, nuts and legumes are also rich in Zinc and Vitamin E, both of which are beneficial for the retina and reduces the chance of AMD and cataracts.
- Citrus fruits and berries – These fruits are filled with vitamin C, which not only reduces the risk of ERMs, but is also beneficial for strengthening the body’s immune system.
8. Surgery is the only treatment for epiretinal membranes.
Although very rare, having severe ERMs hinders a person’s ability to see and will make it harder to perform daily activities. In such cases, your eye specialist will recommend that you undergo treatment immediately to avoid worsening the condition. Correctional glasses or contact lens are ineffective treatments for epiretinal membranes, and only surgery can reliably and successfully treat the condition.
The surgery for treating ERMs is called a vitrectomy and is performed by an eye surgeon like Dr Claudine Pang. During the procedure, the surgeon will make small incisions on the affected eye. The fluid is then removed and is replaced with saline to allow access to the retina’s inner surface. The epiretinal membranes are then removed carefully using delicate forceps, which will then allow the macula to relax and becomes less wrinkled. Finally, the surgeon protects the eye using a pad or shield to avoid injuries and infection. Following surgery, your surgeon will give you eye drops to help stabilize the eye and speed up recovery.
There are always risks when it comes to any surgical procedure, such as infection. A botched vitrectomy increases the risk of developing cataracts, which causes clouding in the eyes. However, vitrectomy has a very high success rate, with only 1% of patients developing retinal detachment and 0.05% developing infection. Most patients develop improved visual acuity following a successful vitrectomy.
Dr Claudine Pang
#15-10 The Paragon, 290 Orchard Rd,
+65 6732 0007