In the occasion of albinism awareness day (June 13), let’s praise our difference. The strength of humankind relies is our differences. Our differences are due to genetics. Our genes define a lot of the physical characteristics that we are born including hair, skin, and eye color. Albinism is genetic, in other words you are born with it. Here are five facts we should all know about albinism:
1. Why some people have albinism and other don’t?
According to the National Health Service-UK (NHS), albinos produce less melanin than normal. Melanin is a protein produced by our body and is responsible for the pigmentation (in other words the coloration) of our hair, skin, and eyes. The more melanin your body produces, the darker will be your hair/skin/eyes and vice-versa.
2. What are the main characteristics of albinism?
Albinos are born with very light blonde/white hair. They also have a very fair skin that easily gets sunburned and that never tans. As albinos have low levels of melanin in the eyes, that might have some eye problems like: poor eyesight, photophobia (eyes sensitive to light), squint, astigmatism (blurred vision) and nystagmus (eyes moving involuntary from side to side).
3. What are the different types of albinism?
Oculocutaneous (OCA) and ocular (OA) are the two types of albinism. From the Latin origin, “oculo” means eyes and “cutaneous” the skin. Thus, OCA affects skin, hair, and eyes while OA affects only the eyes.
4. How is albinism transmitted?
As it’s a genetical condition, albinism can only be transmitted from parents to children through genes. It might skip a generation (albino parents do not necessarily have albino kids), and it’s not a contagious disease. You do not get albinism by touching someone with the condition.
5. Is there a treatment for albinism?
Albinism is not a life-threatening medical condition and there is not a specific treatment for albinism. Yet, as albinos’ skin is very sensitive due to poor level of melanin, NHS recommends that they apply a sunscreen with a SPF above 30 when going outdoor. For eye problems, regular eye tests at the ophthalmologist are needed. Eyeglasses will usually be of help for poor eyesight, photophobia, astigmatism and squint. Eye exercises and surgery could be effective solutions for nystagmus.
Whatever is your or your child’s skin, hair or eye color, we all have a big heart that is able to love and a brain that is able to understand that we should not be judging a book by its cover.