epiretinal membrane

This is a clear membrane that can form on the surface of the retina and usually occurs with aging (though sometimes after ocular trauma). These membranes are common and can be detected with a dilated eye exam … they look like a shiny glistening sheen on the retinal surface. While usually innocuous, epiretinal membranes can sometimes cause visual problems from retinal distortion. The retina detects light in the back of the eye. Like film in a camera, the retina surface needs to be perfectly smooth and flat to see well. Epiretinal membranes can contract and constrict, tugging on the retina and making the surface wrinkled.  This can seriously affect vision if this distortion occurs at the macula (the part of the retina responsible for our fine central vision). If bad enough, these membranes can even open a hole in the retina (see macular hole).  The severity of an epiretinal membrane can be evaluated by tracking vision and scanning the retina with OCT photographs.  Monitoring at home can be done with an Amsler grid. Treatment is primarily surgical (though newer injectable medicines are being studied that look promising).  A membrane peel surgery can be performed by a retinal specialist. This involves peeling the membrane off the retinal surface, then injecting a gas bubble into the eye to help “smooth” the retina back into its normal configuration. This entity is also called “cellophane maculopathy” or “macular pucker.”

Dr. Timothy Root is a practicing ophthalmologist and cataract surgeon in Daytona Beach, Florida. His books, video lectures, and training resources can be found at:


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