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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. Most albinos suffer nystagmus or stigmatism (a rapid, involuntary "shaking" of the eyes), though this and general vision often improves towards middle-age, when most "normally" sighted individuals begin to suffer long- or

short-sightedness, due to changes in muscle tension.

Individuals with these conditions may be helped by the use of glasses and low-visual aids such as magnifiers, as well as bright but angled reading lights, but their vision cannot be corrected completely. Although surgery is possible on the ocular muscles, effectively simulating (to a limited degree) the improvements in the albino's vision that often come with age, the gain is generally thought out-weighed by the trauma.

The lack of pigment in the eye generally leads to ocular photophobia or hyper-photo-sensitivity. This is due not so much to the iris allowing stray light to enter the eye, as to a lack of pigment within the eye, allowing light to refract within the eyeball. A good analogy would be taking a picture with a film camera that is painted white within, rather than black. Such sensitivity generally leads to a dislike of bright lights, but does not prevent people with albinism enjoying the outdoors. They should avoid prolonged exposure to bright sunlight, as their skin is particularly susceptible to sunburn.

Iris color is usually blue/gray or light brown. It is a common notion that people with albinism must have red eyes, but in fact the color of the iris varies from a dull gray to blue to brown. (A brown iris is common in ethnic groups with darker pigmentation.) Under certain lighting conditions, there is a reddish or violet hue reflected through the iris, which has very little pigment. This reddish reflection comes from the retina, which is the surface lining the inside of the eye. This reddish reflection is similar to that which occurs when a flash photograph is taken of a person looking directly at the camera, and the eyes appear red. With some types of albinism the red color can reflect back through the iris as well as through the pupil.

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