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Ocular albinism is a genetic condition that affects the eyes of people with the albinism genes (popularly know as “albinos”). This condition alters the structure and appearance of their eyes, and can result in extremely poor vision for such persons. Thus they might need to wear special glasses or contact lenses to help improve their sight.

An individual with ocular albinism does not lose the eyesight and it usually won’t get worse. As a matter of fact, such persons will most likely have better eyesight as they get older.

Symptoms of Ocular Albinism

Ocular albinism usually affects the retina (the tissue behind the eyes that sends signals to the brain about what the eyes see) as well as the nerves behind the eyes. Because of this, someone with ocular albinism will experience blurry vision.

Another symptom is pink- or red-coloured eyes. This is caused by a lack of melanin in albinos. Melanin is responsible for the colour of our eyes, hair and skin. Other eye symptoms include uncontrollable eye movements, sensitivity to sources of bright lights or sunlight, depth perception, crossed eyes or a “lazy eye.”

Living with the challenge

Even though ocular albinism cannot be treated, people living with the condition can live their normal day-to-day lives. They can do this through the use of contact lenses, handheld magnifiers, bifocal glasses and prescription reading glasses, to help improve their extremely reduced vision. Also, having indoor lighting behind the shoulder can help them see better by reducing glare.

Although people with ocular albinism can be legally blind, it is still very possible for them to get a driver’s license in some parts of the world. This can happen if they wear special glasses with small telescopes mounted on them.

We recommend that anyone living with ocular albinism should have their eye tested regularly and examined at least once a year by an eye doctor. This way, the eye doctor can ensure that the person is using the right strength for their glasses or contact lenses to help them see better and also detect other eye conditions they are prone to have.