Albinism

Jessica Kadlec & Taylor Solis

Albinism is a recessive inherited defect in melanin metabolism in which pigment is absent from hair, skin, and eyes (oculocutaneous albinism) or just from the eyes (ocular albinism). Melanin is a dark biological pigment that is formed as an end product of the metabolism of the amino acid tyrosine. When human skin is exposed to sunlight it gradually darkens or tans due to an increase in melanin. Tanning helps protect the underlying skin layers from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. But when an individual has this defect in melanin they become sensitive to the sunlight.

The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms. Treatment depends on the severity of the disorder.

Treatment involves protecting the skin and eyes from the sun:

  • Reduce sunburn risk by avoiding the sun, using sunscreen, and covering up completely with clothing when exposed to the sun.
  • Sunscreen should have a high sun protection factor (SPF).
  • Sunglasses (UV protected) may relieve light sensitivity.

Glasses are often prescribed to correct vision problems and eye position. Eye muscle surgery is sometimes recommended to correct abnormal eye movements (nystagmus).

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