By Monique Lewis
In the month of spring and heritage, we also have Albinism Awareness Month. During this month we will be providing information on Albinism to make people more aware of what the condition is.
What is albinism?
Albinism is an inherited genetic condition that reduces the amount of melanin pigment formed in the skin, hair and eyes. Albinism occurs in all racial and ethnic groups throughout the world.
Types of albinism?
There are several different types of albinism. Levels of pigmentation vary depending on which type of albinism you have. The different types of albinism include:
Oculocutaneous albinism: Oculocutaneous albinism, or OCA, is the most common type of albinism. People with OCA have extremely pale hair, skin and eyes. There are seven different subtypes of OCA, caused by mutations in one of seven genes (OCA1 to OCA7).
Ocular albinism: Ocular albinism, or OA, is much less common than OCA. Ocular albinism affects only your eyes. People with OA usually have blue eyes. Sometimes your irises (coloured part of your eyes) are very pale, so your eyes may appear red or pink. This is because the blood vessels inside your eyes show through the irises. Your skin and hair colour are usually normal.
Chediak-Higashi syndrome: Chediak-Higashi syndrome is a type of albinism that includes a form of OCA along with immune and neurological issues.
What are the symptoms of albinism?
People with albinism may experience the following symptoms:
· Very pale skin, hair and eyes.
· Patches of missing skin pigment.
· Crossed eyes (strabismus).
· Rapid eye movements (nystagmus).
· Vision problems.
· Light sensitivity (photophobia).
What is the treatment for albinism?
There is no cure for albinism. You must manage the condition by being vigilant about sun protection. You can protect your skin, hair and eyes by:
· Staying out of the sun.
· Wearing sunglasses.
· Covering up with sun-protective clothing.
· Wearing hats.
· Applying sunscreen regularly.
· If you have crossed eyes (strabismus), a surgeon may be able to correct the issue with surgery.
What complications can occur because of albinism?
People with albinism may experience any of the following complications:
Skin problems: Due to their light-coloured skin, people with albinism have an increased risk of sunburn. They also have an increased risk of skin cancer.
Vision problems: People with albinism may be legally blind, but they can learn to use their vision over time. Some people may be able to correct problems with astigmatism, farsightedness and near-sightedness with eyeglasses or contacts.
Social problems: People with albinism are at an increased risk of isolation due to the social stigma behind the condition.
Can people with albinism live a normal life?
People with albinism can lead normal, healthy lives. However, you should limit the amount of time you spend outdoors due to sun exposure. Some people with albinism deal with social isolation due to the stigma of the condition. You should talk to your family, friends and therapists for support with your condition.