How can Albinism affect vision?

 Albinism is a genetic condition that affects the levels of pigment (coloration) in the skin, hair and eyes of an individual. Ocular albinism is a type of albinism that affects the eye specifically and causes a loss of visual acuity.

Unlike other types of albinism, ocular albinism does not affect the skin and hair to a significant degree. When it comes to the eyes, however, it can cause the deformation of the retina and the depigmentation of the iris. Who is at risk and how does it affect vision? Find out more in this article.

What Are the Symptoms of Ocular Albinism?

People with ocular albinism can be considered legally blind, as it always causes loss of sight and a severe visual impairment. It isn't a progressive condition, so any vision loss, though permanent, will remain stable and won't worsen.

Other symptoms can be:

  • The discoloration of the eyes is a common symptom. Sometimes the lack of pigmentation of the iris makes the eye appear red as the light reflects on the blood vessels inside the eye.
  • Nystagmus and Strabismus are two other conditions that can signal that there is something wrong. Involuntary eye movements or poor eye control can prove challenging.
  • High sensitivity to light and glare.
  • Nearsightedness and farsightedness, possibly accompanied by astigmatism.

Who Can Be Affected by Ocular Albinism?

Ocular albinism is inherited, and it's far more common in men than in women.

In order for a woman to inherit it, she must have two copies of the faulty gene. If both parents are healthy, their daughter will be a carrier at worse, since the father will surely be passing down a healthy X chromosome. However, if the father has ocular albinism and the mother also passes down a faulty gene, the daughter will then have the condition, too.

In the case of men, whether they'll have the condition or not will depend entirely on what X chromosome they inherit from their mother. So if the mother has one faulty X chromosome and one healthy X chromosome, there is a 50 % chance that her son will have the condition too, since he can only inherit one X chromosome from her.

How Do You Treat Ocular Albinism?

While there is no cure for ocular albinism, a lot of the symptoms can be treated. Nystagmus and strabismus, for example, can be corrected with visual training, using visual aids or, eventually, with a surgical intervention if they do not improve by themselves.

Living with this condition can be challenging, but it is possible to lead a relatively normal life with the appropriate support and tools.

The sensitivity to light can be alleviated to a degree by wearing proper sunglasses and lenses. Going out without either of them can be painful depending on the level of pigment deficiency.

Visual aids can also help with the loss of vision resulting from the condition. There are plenty of powerful magnifiers that can improve vision significantly and allow people affected by ocular albinism to do their daily tasks and enjoy their hobbies.