Albinism is an inherited genetic condition that reduces the amount of the pigment melanin in the skin, hair and/or eyes, making individuals with the condition very light or colorless. It can occur in any racial or ethnic group. Other symptoms of albinism may include crossed eyes, light sensitivity, rapid eye movements or vision problems. The degree of albinism and level of impairment varies for each individual. Approximately one in every 18-20,000 people in the United States has albinism.
Albinism currently has no known cure. A person with albinism may or may not require treatment depending on his/her degree of impairment. A person may require corrective glasses or ocular surgery to help with vision problems. Because of light skin, it is often quite helpful to wear special sunwear like sunglasses, protective clothing or sunscreen to avoid sun damage.
Since albinism lightens the skin and eyes, it can cause vision and dermatological complications. Many people with albinism have vision problems that cannot be corrected with normal eyeglasses and having very light skin can put people at greater risk for sun damage. Most people with albinism can live fulfilling lives. The condition tends to pose more challenges for people who live in very hot or sunny areas and do not have access to various types of sun protection.
Many people with albinism also face several harmful stereotypes surrounding their condition. Stereotypes include but are not limited to: all people with albinism have red eyes, people with albinism are less intelligent and are evil. These stereotypes are harmful and simply not true. Albinism can also make it difficult for people of any race or ethnicity to feel like they “belong” with other people of their same race or ethnicity because of their different appearance and lighter skin color.
There are several organizations that provide information and resources on albinism as well as a place for people living with the condition to connect.