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Albinism

Albinism is an inherited skin disorder that causes pale-colored skin, hair, and eyes.

Albinism results from the body producing little or none of the brown pigment called melanin. People with darker skin produce more melanin than those with lighter skin.

People with albinism are especially sensitive to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. As a result they are much more likely to experience sunburn and are at increased risk of developing skin cancer.

Visual Problems

Melanin also plays a role in the function of the eyes, so the lack of melanin can result in visual problems in people with albinism.

Signs and symptoms of albinism related to eye function include:

Genetics of Albinism

Albinism is due to a mutation in one of several genes that control the body’s production of melanin. These genes are an inherited, even if both parents have normally pigmented skin.

Most types of albinism are “recessive” traits, meaning that a person must inherit one copy of the gene from both parents in order to have albinism. If a person has only one copy of the gene, he or she will not have albinism. Parents within one copy of the gene for albinism will have normally pigmented skin, but may pass along the trait to their children

Types of Albinism

Types of albinism include:

Oculocutaneous Albinism. Oculocutaneous albinism is caused by a mutation in one of four genes.

X-linked Ocular Albinism. This form of albinism is caused by changes on the X chromosome and usually occurs in males. (Males have the X+Y chromosomes. Females have the X + X chromosomes.). People with X-linked ocular albinism may have the same skin, eye and hair color that appears normal or slightly light than others in their family, but they face the same visual impairments.

Treatment and Management of Albinism

There is no cure for albinism, but there are important steps to follow to help minimize complications and maintain good health.

Social and Emotional Factors

The different appearance of people with albinism can attract the attention of others. This attention, even if merely out of curiosity, can have a negative impact.

These factors may contribute to social isolation and stress that may benefit for social support or counseling.