Albinism is an inherited genetic condition. Approximately 1 in 17,000 people in the UK have some form of Albinism. People with Albinism have little or no pigment (melanin) in the eyes, skin and hair. Albinism can affect people from all races. The parents of most children with Albinism have normal hair and eye colour for their ethnic background and have no apparent family history of Albinism.
People with Albinism nearly always have impaired vision. They are unable to produce melanin and this means their eyes do not develop normally before birth. Extreme long or short sightedness is common.
Vision can usually be improved to some extent with glasses, but even with correction the vision will be significantly impaired. Very few people with Albinism have good enough vision to drive a car and some are legally blind.
The eyes of many people with Albinism show unusual involuntary movements back and forth called Nystagmus. Often the effect of this can be reduced by tilting or turning the head to reduce the eye movements.
Because the eyes lack pigmentation , they are very sensitive to bright light (photophobia) which necessitates protection from glare with sunhats and tinted glasses.
The inability to produce melanin means the skin is very fair and extra care is required to ensure protection from sunburn.
The growth and development of a child with Albinism is usually normal. Intellectual development is normal and children with Albinism attend mainstream schools, albeit with extra assistance to overcome their visual impairment. Life span is normal.
Albinism can cause social difficulties for children due to their visual impairment and unusually fair colouring, which makes them differ from their peers.