One in every 20,000 people across the globe is born with oculocutaneous albinism, commonly referred to as albinism. The word ‘Albinism’ comes from the Latin word albus which translates to white. Albinism disease is characterised by a lack of pigmentation in the hair, skin and eyes, which causes vulnerability to sun exposure and bright light.
Albinism is an uncommon, non-contagious, genetically inherited medical condition. It can occur in either of the genders, irrespective of ethnicity and race.
A defect in one or several genes that produce and distribute melanin causes albinism. For albinism to be passed on even if parents do not have albinism themselves, both the father and mother must carry the gene responsible for the condition.
Skin and hair colour: The most notable difference in someone with albinism is in their appearance. Absence of pigments in the skin, hair, and eyes results in a light complexion. One of the most common symptoms of albinism is light hair, though some may have darker hair depending on the amount of melanin their body produces.
Eye colour and problems: Melanin in small amounts makes the eye colour of those affected very pale blue or grey. Most people with the condition are vision impaired with majority of them classified as blind. Vision problems such as short-sightedness, long-sightedness, loss of sight that cannot be corrected, astigmatism and photophobia are quite common in people with albinism. Nystagmus, in which the eyes move uncontrollably resulting in reduced vision, is also associated with albinism.
Cognitive difficulties: Much of the albino population has cognitive problems, particularly reading problems. Vision problems further add to the learning difficulties.
Albinism is a genetic disorder with no cure. Getting proper eye care and monitoring skin is the goal of albinism treatment. The following is recommended in the treatment:
- Reduce sunburn risk by avoiding the sun, using sunscreen, and covering up completely with clothing when exposed to the sun.
- Use of sunglasses (UV protected) to relieve light sensitivity.
- Glasses to correct vision problems and eye position.
- Annual skin and eye check up.
Initiatives and development
People around the world today know that there are bigger issues than those of skin colour or even albinism, but we are far from when barriers and stigma around skin colour-based differences will no longer exist.
13th June is observed as International Albinism Awareness Day every year with an objective to bring an end to the discrimination people with albinism face worldwide.
Read more articles on Skin Conditions.
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