An epiretinal membrane, also called a macular pucker, is a thin layer of tissue that forms over the macula, the area of the retina that gives us clear central and reading vision.
Epiretinal membranes often develop on their own as a part of the natural aging process. Particles that have drifted into the vitreous (the gel that fills the eye) settle onto the macula and begin to obscure vision. Membranes may also result from eye conditions or diseases such as retinal detachment, inflammation, injury or vascular conditions. These are called secondary
epiretinal membranes, whereas spontaneously formed membranes are called idiopathic.
Many epiretinal membranes do not disrupt vision. Thicker membranes, however, can create wrinkles or puckers in the macula, and small blurry or distorted areas in the center of vision may appear. Vision loss increases as the membrane thickens. Peripheral vision is not affected, and there is no risk of blindness.
Some epiretinal membranes heal on their own. For those that do not, surgery is recommended. The procedure is outpatient with local anesthesia. A vitrectomy is performed to remove the vitreous gel, a saline solution fills the eye and then the membrane is lifted from the macula. The visual results are usually very satisfying.