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The lens of the eye focuses an image of the world on a portion of the retina called the macula , the area of finest visual perception. Gradual deterioration of the macula is called macular degeneration. After cataracts , damage to the macula is the second most common cause of visual impairment in those over 65. Smoking , high blood pressure , and atherosclerosis are associated with progressive damage to the macula. Ultraviolet light may also play a role by creating harmful free radicals in the eye. In the most common form of macular degeneration (dry macular degeneration), a substance known as lipofuscin accumulates in the lining of the retina. A much less common form of macular degeneration involves the abnormal growth of blood vessels (wet macular degeneration). This can be treated very successfully, if attended to soon enough, but may lead to irreversible blindness if left untreated. For this reason, medical consultation in all cases of macular degeneration (or any other type of vision loss) is essential.
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