Have you recently been having some blurred vision? Are you trying to look at straight lines but is seeing wavy lines instead? If you have been having these symptoms, you may already have epiretinal membranes growing and developing in your retina. But don’t fret, it is not yet a life-threatening situation but if taken lightly or for granted, will definitely have a great impact in your vision – sooner or later.
This article will help you know more about epiretinal membranes – what they are, their symptoms, how you can treat them and more. You will also be able to know some famous sports celebrities who were diagnosed with it but were able to conquer it and went on to enjoy their sports.
What are Epiretinal Membranes?
Epiretinal membranes (ERMs) are layers of fibrous tissues that are usually thin and transparent that forms like a film on the inner surface (macula) of the retina. As retina acts as the lens of our eyes where light passes through, the presence of these membranes will give blurry vision or may sometimes give mild vision loss (as it blocks the light) to the person affected by it.
What are the symptoms of Epiretinal Membranes?
As mentioned, a person affected may observe that instead of straight lines, he/she will be seeing wavy lines and it worsens over time. He/she may also experience a blurry vision and double vision. The good news, however, is that the presence of epiretinal membranes will not cause total blindness. There are even some cases where ERMs does not have any effect on the vision at all if on the early stage of formation. However, it can cause gradual vision loss if left untreated.
How will I know if I have Epiretinal Membranes?
Most eye conditions begin with a blurry vision so the best way to determine for sure if you have an epiretinal membrane forming in your retina is by having an eye checkup. Also, since epiretinal membrane doesn’t have symptoms for some people, a regular eye checkup or having routine eye exams is greatly encouraged especially for people who are over the age of 50. Medical studies have shown that the epiretinal membrane more commonly affects older people at the age of 50 and above.
Some tests that an eye specialist may perform to confirm the presence of epiretinal membranes include optical coherence tomography (OCT) and fluorescein angiography. For proper and best quality eye care, always look for the best eye specialists such as Dr Claudine Pang, one of the recognized eye retina surgeons not only in Singapore but also internationally.
What is or are the cause of epiretinal membranes?
One of the most common causes of ERMs is a posterior vitreous detachment. This is a condition brought about by ageing. Ageing usually comes with waning sense organs/bodily functions, thus it is a natural for the vitreous gel that fills the eyes separates from the retina. If this happens, micro-tears in the retina occurs which results in glial cells growing in a membranous sheet on its inner surface. Over time, the membranous sheet contracts so the pulling and puckering of the retina results to epiretinal membranes.
Aside from old age, eye injuries and surgeries including retinal vascular diseases, an eye condition that involves the eye’s blood vessels may also cause the formation of epiretinal membranes.
What is/are the available treatment for epiretinal membranes?
Once diagnosed and confirmed of having epiretinal membranes, an eye surgeon would schedule you for surgery. It is the most effective way to treat it. The earlier the surgery is performed, the better – as epiretinal membranes over time tend to get worse and when it becomes severe, may result in vision loss.
The affected person will have to undergo a surgery called a vitrectomy. Vitrectomy is always the type of treatment recommended for retina related conditions (usually brought about by aging). This is done by creating small incisions in the affected eye then the fluid is removed and is replaced with saline to allow access to the retina’s inner surface. Using delicate forceps, the epiretinal membranes are then removed carefully. This will allow the macula to relax and becomes less wrinkled. After the surgery, the eye will be covered with a pad or shield to avoid any infection or injuries while it heals. The eye surgeon will prescribe eye drops to help in stabilizing the eye and to speed up recovery.
What is/are the risks of undergoing Vitrectomy?
Just like any surgery, undergoing a Vitrectomy poses some risks. It is important that the eye surgeon have the knowledge and expertise to perform the surgery. You may contact Dr. Claudine Pang to ensure you get the proper treatment.
If a botched surgery is done on you, you may be at risk of the following:
- Cataracts (clouding in the eye)
However, vitrectomy has a very high success rate with only 1% of patients developing retinal detachment and 0.05% developing infection.
What is/are the lifestyle I need to develop to prevent the formation of Epiretinal Membrane?
In order to prevent the formation of epiretinal membranes, one should be able to adapt a lifestyle that goals to improve the overall eye health. Here are some of the lifestyle choices you need to change or develop:
- Eat food that promotes good eye health. Increase consumption of food with antioxidants such as green and leafy vegetables; eat plenty of food rich in omega-three like tuna, salmon, legumes, and nuts; at the same time, help yourself with a sumptuous amount of citrus fruits and berries. These does not only target in preventing epiretinal membranes but may also prevent glaucoma and cataract.
- If you already have other retina related conditions, manage it appropriately. Conditions such as diabetic retinopathy can increase the risk of an individual to develop epiretinal membranes. To prevent it, focus on managing your existing conditions. Always follow your doctor’s advice on treatments, medications, and other instructions.
- Take care of your eyes by having routine eye exams. Keep yourself up to date of your eye health by subjecting yourself to regular eye checkups and exams. This will allow you to know certain eye conditions at its early stages. The likes of Claudine Pang, one of the recognized eye retina surgeons in Singapore, will make sure to keep your eyes healthy.
Dr Claudine Pang
#15-10 The Paragon, 290 Orchard Rd,
+65 6732 0007