Most of us may be familiar with albinism, as 1 in 18,000 people lives with this genetic condition.
While we may be familiar with the concept of albinism, what exactly is it? And how does it affect those that have it?
Albinism is an inherited condition that affects the pigmentation formed in our skin, hair, and eyes. The condition restricts the development of melanin in the body, which creates a lack of color.
Albinism occurs regardless of race and ethnicity, and can even be inherited by children from parents who are seemingly unaffected by it.
So, how does albinism affect vision?
Does Albinism Cause Red Eyes?
The most common misconception when people compare albinism to the eyes is that those who live with albinism have red eyes.
This, however, isn’t the case. Certain light conditions can make the blood vessels in the back of the eye more visible, giving someone with albinism the appearance of having red eyes. In reality, most have blue, hazel, or brown eyes.
What Vision Problems Are Associated With Albinism?
Those with albinism also usually have distinct vision problems that are unable to be corrected by glasses or contacts. This is caused by the lack of pigmentation in the iris that contributes to our visual acuity, along with abnormalities in the nerve connections between the eye and the brain.
The result is that most of those affected by albinism have low vision, most often between 20/40 to 20/100, and in some cases can even be considered legally blind.
Additionally, pigments in the eye help us absorb and tolerate most bright lights, which means that most people living with albinism are sensitive to light and usually suffer from the associated condition called photosensitivity.
Another condition that a lack of pigment can create is the rapid, involuntary movement of the eye (nystagmus) or misalignment of the eyes (strabismus). The good news, however, is that nystagmus usually lessens over time, and can even disappear as the affected person ages.
Despite these vision abnormalities, most people with albinism learn to adapt to low vision, and can complete tasks that require acute vision, such as reading, riding a bike, and in some cases, driving a car.
Is There A Cure For Albinism?
There is no cure for albinism.
However, there are a variety of steps that can be taken to protect yourself if you are affected by it.
Don’t forget to wear sunglasses and sunscreen before exposing yourself to sunlight for long periods of time, and be sure to talk to your eye doctor if you suffer from any of the above mentioned ocular conditions.
Albinism is a fascinating phenomenon of the human body, but the best thing you can do if you live with albinism is to stay proactive about its potential challenges to your eyesight.