Albinism is an inherited condition. People with albinism have absent or reduced pigment in their eyes, skin or hair. They have inherited genes that do not make the usual amounts of a pigment called melanin which is essential for the full development of the retina. Approximately one in 17,000 people have one of the types of albinism. People with albinism usually have a number of eye conditions such as:
1. photophobia (sensitivity to light) – they may feel dazzled by bright light
2. problems with eyesight – they may benefit from wearing glasses, although vision is often still impaired even with glasses (see below)
3. involuntary eye movements (nystagmus)
Depending on the amount of melanin a person has, they may have very pale hair, skin and eyes, but some may have brown or ginger hair and skin that can tan.
Regardless of their specific eye problems, many children born with albinism find they can see an object more clearly if they hold it very close to their eyes.
As they get older, it may be more difficult to hold objects up close, so a magnifying lens can help.