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What causes albinism?

The main problems of albinism are caused by the inability of the body to produce melanin pigment (whose major role in the skin is to absorb UV light from the sun so skin is not sun-damaged). It also has a role in the development of normal vision of the eye. Albinism is mostly a recessively inherited disease, which means that you have inherited two albinism genes (one

from each parent). If your parents are only carriers of albinism (each having one albinism gene and one normal gene) they will have enough genetic information to make normal pigment and will not show any signs of albinism.

There are many genes which are now scientifically proven to be associated with albinism (or better: alterations of the genes). All alterations, however, lead to an alteration of the melanin (pigment / colouring) production in the body and the eyes. Melanin helps protect the skin from ultraviolet light coming from the Sun (see human skin color for more information). People with albinism lack this protective pigment in their skin, and can burn easily from exposure to the sun as a result. Lack of melanin in the eye often results in problems with vision, as the eye will not develop properly without the pigment.

Individuals with albinism (called albinos) generally have white hair and pale skin which makes them stand out. Often hair pigmentation is not completely absent (white) but shows a pale or medium blonde. Often the affected persons are paler in complexion as the rest of the family. The myth that all persons with albinism have "white hair and red eyes" is not true. Growth and development of children with albinism should be (and is) normal however, as should their general health, life span, intelligence, and ability to have children. The chance of albino children resulting from the marriage of an albino with a non-albino is very low.

More information on albinism

What is albinism? - Albinism is a genetic condition resulting in a lack of pigmentation in the eyes, skin and hair. Albinism in hair, skin, and eyes is called oculocutaneous albinism.
Signs and symptoms of albinism - Symptoms of albinism can involve the skin, hair, and eyes. The main subdivisions of albinism include oculocutaneous, ocular, and albinoidism.
What causes albinism? - The main problems of albinism are caused by the inability of the body to produce melanin pigment. Albinism is mostly a recessively inherited disease.
Visual problems associated with albinism - People with albinism generally suffer impaired vision. They may have varying degrees of partial-sightedness; either near-sighted or far-sighted.
Treatment and precautions for albinism - There is no treatment that can replace the lack of melanin that causes the symptoms of albinism. Patients with albinism should avoid excessive exposure to the sun. 
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All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005,, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005