Living with epiretinal membrane
Epiretinal membrane (ERM) happens when a thin layer of scar tissue or membrane grows over the retina at the back of the eye. This can happen due to posterior vitreous detachment, a common eye condition as people age.
The condition doesn't always affect eyesight, but you can have treatment if it does. 70-80% of people who have vitrectomy surgery find their vision improves within three to six months of treatment (Source: Moorfields Eye Hospital). Eyesight may continue to improve for up to three years after surgery (Source: Bascom Palmer Eye Institute).
If you've been diagnosed with epiretinal membrane, you will probably have regular follow-up appointments with your ophthalmologist. They'll monitor your sight and discuss your treatment options if the condition starts to affect your vision and quality of life.
Managing your epiretinal membrane
If you've been diagnosed with epiretinal membrane, also known as macular pucker, you'll have regular eye examinations to monitor your sight. Regular eye tests can detect a range of eye diseases and help look after your eye health.
If your epiretinal membrane isn't causing you any problems, you may not need treatment. However, if you experience blurred and distorted vision (metamorphopsia) and worsening central vision, you may opt for vitrectomy eye surgery. You can talk over this decision with your ophthalmologist, who may be able to discuss the visual outcome you could expect.
Can you drive with epiretinal membrane?
Many people with epiretinal membrane don't experience vision changes, but for some, it affects their central vision. It can cause blurred and distorted or worsening vision and reduces visual acuity (how well you can see details).
The DVLA has eyesight rules for driving, including minimum standards for visual acuity. If your sight is affected by epiretinal membrane, speak to your ophthalmologist, who may need to test your vision and check you still meet the standard for driving.
If you have vitrectomy surgery for epiretinal membrane, your vision may recover enough to allow you to drive. It can take several weeks for your eye to heal, and your vision may keep improving for up to three years after eye surgery. Ask your ophthalmologist at a follow-up appointment about when you can drive.
Can you work with epiretinal membrane?
Many people have epiretinal membrane without experiencing symptoms, so their work won't be affected.
If you have symptoms such as blurred or double vision, treatment can help improve your vision. If you need eye surgery, it can help to explain your situation to your employer and discuss how they can support you with time off while you recover.
If you have some lasting vision loss, you may still work with some adjustments. Employers are responsible for making reasonable adjustments to help people with visual impairments at work. Many practical things can help, such as assistive technology, lighting, and visual aids like magnifiers.
Support for epiretinal membrane
Many people with epiretinal membrane don't have to change their lifestyle. For some, the condition will affect their sight, and they'll decide to adjust to these vision changes or have treatment.
If you're adapting to changes in your vision, there are plenty of accessible aids and tips you may find helpful:
- Tips for coping with central vision problems
- Practical ways to use colour contrast
- Technology, including apps and accessibility features
Our guide to making the most of your vision is a good place to start, and you can ask your ophthalmologist for advice and support.
Frequently asked questions
The Royal College of Ophthalmologists champions excellence in the practice of ophthalmology and is the only professional membership body for medically qualified ophthalmologists. The RCOphth is unable to offer direct advice to patients. If you’re concerned about the health of your eyes, you should seek medical advice from your GP, optometrist or ophthalmologist.
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