WHAT IS ALBINISM?
Albinism is an inherited genetic condition that reduces the amount of pigment formed in the eyes, skin or hair. Some children and adults with albinism (albinos) may have a total lack of pigment with skin and hair and pinkish eyes. There are different types of albinism, and one, in particular, affects only the eyes (Ocular Albinism), being the skin and hair pigmentation quiet normal. In severe cases of albinism, the eye's central vision area, the macula, does not developed well, resulting in a very poor vision.
WHAT CAUSES ALBINISM?
Albinism is the result of the inability of the cells in eyes, skin or hair of producing normal amount of pigment. This condition is passed on genetically from parents to children.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF ALBINISM?
Albinism symptoms begin in childhood and may start by decreased vision, high sensitivity to bright lights, involuntary eye movement (nystagmus) and strabismus. Vision may range from normal to a greater loss of vision that can lead to blindness. Near vision is likely to be better than far vision. Thus, in general these kids can develop normally their school activities.
HOW IS ALBINISM DIAGNOSED?
Albinism is usually detected by the general fair complexion of the person, as well as by disruptions in family history. A comprehensive eye examination performed by an ophthalmologist, a medical examination and a genetic evaluation (investigation of the family history) can help diagnose and define the type of albinism.
There are also special tests for hair, skin and blood that are helpful to make a specific diagnosis. A second form of rare albinism is associated with an increased susceptibility to bleed and develop infections.
HOW IS ALBINISM TREATED?
Albinism is a lifelong condition. Although there is neither specific treatment of the poor or absent pigment production, nor a way to correct early the abnormal development of central vision, a good evaluation of the eye and management can be very useful.
Strabismus that is usually encountered in these cases can be treated with optical or surgical measures. Adapted sunglasses with special filter can improve vision and reduce sensitivity to lights. Both magnifying eyeglasses and low vision support can be very helpful to get a good life's quality.
We recommend a detailed study of the genetic history of the involved people and their families. This will certainly provide the specialist with a detailed description of the condition and the possibility of affecting any descendants.
Some individuals with albinism may be entitled to financial assistance because of partial or total disability. The ophthalmologist will have to make a medical report in order to qualify as recipient for social grants.