Albino Albinism

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Albinism refers to a group of disorders that are present at birth.It is characterized by a decrease or lack of color in the skin, hair, andeyes.

What is going on in the body?

Albinism refers to a group of genetic defects that cause decreasedlevels of the pigment, melanin, which forms color in skin, hair, and eyes. Lowlevels of melanin cause very light skin tone and blond-white hair. The eyesmight also be affected and have an iris that is dull-gray to blue or brown.Since melanin protects the skin from ultraviolet radiation from the sun, peoplewith albinism are easily sunburned.

What are the causes and risks of the disease?

Albinism is an inherited disorder. A person with albinism hasreceived an abnormal gene from his or her parents. Most children with albinismare born to parents with normal melanin production and no symptoms of albinism.

Symptoms & Signs

What are the signs and symptoms of the disease?

Symptoms of albinism may include the following:

  • very light skin color
  • blondish-white colored hair
  • eyes that are sensitive to light
  • visual impairmentsthat require glasses or contact lenses, because normal levels of melanin arerequired for normal vision
  • tendency to sunburneasily, since there is not enough melanin to block ultraviolet rays
  • While some rare forms of albinism can cause hearing impairments or blood-clottingproblems, most people with albinism have normal health. Children with albinismgrow and develop normally and reach normal intelligence levels.

    Diagnosis & Tests

    How is the disease diagnosed?

    Albinism is diagnosed using a medical history and complete physical thatincludes an eye examination.

    Prevention & Expectations

    What can be done to prevent the disease?

    Albinism is an inherited disease and cannot beprevented.

    What are the long-term effects of the disease?

    People with albinism have a much higher risk of skin cancer because they lack a protective pigment inthe skin.

    What are the risks to others?

    Albinism is not contagious and poses no risk to others. Because itis inherited, it can be passed from parents to their children at conception.

    Treatment & Monitoring

    What are the treatments for the disease?

    There is no treatment per se for albinism. People with albinismare advised to avoid excess sunexposure in order to minimize their risk of skin cancer. Large-print books, high-contrast materials, and computers with large letters can helppeople with visualimpairments.

    What are the side effects of the treatments?

    Rarely, a person may have an allergic reaction to a certainsunscreen lotion.

    What happens after treatment for the disease?

    Albinism is a lifelong condition that cannot be cured.

    How is the disease monitored?

    Careful skin examination performed by a healthcare provider shouldbe done periodically to check for skincancer. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to thehealthcare provider.

    Article type: xmedgeneral