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Ocular albinism is a type of Albinism. Albinos are people who, due to their genes, do not have enough melanin in their bodies, particularly the eyes, hair and skin. This melanin deficiency causes then to have issues with their eyes that are peculiar to them. Their eyes may appear or behave differently from the regular patterns and they might need special glasses or contact lenses. September is Albinism Awareness Month and is an opportunity to teach about their challenges while remembering that they are normal people who form an important part of our society.

Eye appearance

The eyelashes and eyebrows of those with albinism are often pale and the eye colour can range from brown to very light blue. Also, the colour may change with age.

The lack of melanin in the irises makes the eyes look shiny and the irises unable to completely block light from entering the eye. Therefore, very light-coloured eyes may appear red in some lighting or in pictures.

Vision Challenges

The optical system’s development depends highly on the presence of melanin. The absence or reduction of melanin pigment is associated with vision defects such as:

  • Photophobia (sensitivity to light)
  • Nystagmus, which is rapid and irregular back-and-forth movement of the eye
  • Amblyopia
  • Strabismus (when both eyes have trouble moving in unison or focusing on the same point).
  • Poor depth perception
  • Abnormal development of the retina (especially the foves, optic nerve and its connection to the brain)
  • Odd head movements to reduce involuntary eye movement and see better
  • Extreme near-sightedness or farsightedness
  • Astigmatism which can cause blurred vision
  • Legal blindness or complete blindness

Treatment

There is no cure for albinism, so all the person can do is make healthy lifestyle choices that keep their eyes as comfortable and healthy as possible.

When one has this condition, the part of the retina which should absorb most of the reflected sunlight, is improperly developed and this increases glare and sensitivity to bright light. This challenge can be reduced by wearing brimmed hats or sunglasses that can filter out ultraviolet light.

Glasses or contact lenses can also be prescribed by the eye doctor after a comprehensive eye test. Some people use bifocals or hand-held devices like magnifiers or monoculars when reading. Low vision aids, bright angled reading lights and large print materials are also encouraged.

Contact us for more information on how to live a full life with good vision.