Epiretinal Membrane (Macular Pucker)
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 diabetic retinopathy, 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, however, and there is no risk of blindness.
While some epiretinal membranes heal on their own, surgery is recommended for those that do not. Vitrectomy is performed as an outpatient procedure with local anesthesia. During the procedure, the vitreous gel is removed, a saline solution fills the eye and then the membrane is lifted from the macula. There is no non-surgical alternative to treat epiretinal membranes.