Around the world, people with albinism–they prefer not to be called albinos–face day to day difficulties. Individuals with albinism are often bullied and isolated because they look different.
Persons with albinism have pale white complexions that make them vulnerable to severe sunburns; because of a genetic trait, their skin lacks melanin–pigment cells that help protect skin against the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Melanin is responsible for the color on the hair, the iris of the eyes, and skin. Those with Albinism are born with a genetic condition that keeps their bodies from producing enough melanin.
Albinism and your eyes
The most common and important types of albinism that affects the eye are (1) Tyrosinase-negative, (2) Tyrosinase-positive and (3) Ocular albinism. There are six more variations but those are very rare.
The people who belong to the first type, lets call it T-negative, is almost completely without pigment. They have pink skin and white hair. Yes, all their hair are white including the eye lashes. Their eyes are light-blue, and glow red when flash photos are used. Their eyesight is very poor due to a thin inner-lining of the eye and shows jerky movements. They are usually very near-sighted.
Those who belong to the second type, this time lets call it T-positive, initially looks the same as the previous batch. However, as they grow older their skin and eyes start to increase in pigmentation and their vision shows some improvement.
The last type is Ocular Albinism, and as the name implies, only the eye is pale while the skin shows normal colors. Ofcourse, since their inner eye layer is thinned, their vision is very bad. It is interesting that only men are affected by this and, while women may carry the trait their vision is normal.
How does albinism affect eyesight?
Albinism reduces the pigmentation of the iris, the colored part of the eyes and retina, a light-sensitive tissue found at the back of the eyes. The lack of pigmentation in these areas makes individuals with albinism overly sensitive to light.
In addition to the photosensitivity, their optic tracts–a visual system in the brain–tend to be completely crossed. A person with albinism can see with both eyes, but cannot see the same thing at the same time.
They also suffer from blurry vision due to the underdevelopment of the center part of the retina, called the macula. The macula is responsible for our “20/20” vision and provides an accurate color vision. This is the condition that most affects vision in cases of ocular albinism.
Luckily, albinism doesn’t affect a person’s lifespan. Since they are very near sighted, eye glasses or contact lenses are recommended. They should wear sunglasses and protective clothing to shield their eyes and skin from UV rays. Parents of affected children should avoid exposure of their kids to sunlight.