Albino people are individuals who have an inherited, genetic condition known as albinism. People with albinism do not produce normal amounts of pigment, or, melanin, which causes a lack of color in their skin, hair and eyes. But albinism includes a group of genetically ingrained features that go beyond the distinctive appearance. According to the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation, one in 17,000 Americans has some aspect of albinism. People with albinism come from all different races and ethnic backgrounds.
Albinism can manifest in different forms in individuals. Many people with albinism have oculocutaneous albinism (OCA), which affects their vision and causes them to have very light hair and skin. While Caucasians tend to have light skin and white hair, African-Americans with albinism tend to have cream-colored skin and yellowish hair. There are four basic types of OCA, which differ depending on which genes are affected. Besides OCA, a less common form of albinism is ocular albinism (OA), which affects primarily the eyes. An albino person with OA may have hair and skin colors that resemble their family members, but lighter-colored eyes.
Skin and Vision Problems
People with albinism often have skin and vision problems related to their genetic condition. Since their skin is so fair, they may develop life-threatening skin cancers. In order to protect their skin, people with albinism must wear hats and sunscreen while outdoors. Albinism causes abnormalities in retina development and eye-brain nerve connections, which leads to reduced levels of vision and vision problems. Many people with albinism have low vision that makes them "legally blind" with a visual acuity of 20/200 or less. They may also have a condition known as nystagmus, which causes their eyes to move quickly back and forth or up and down.
Although children with albinism can succeed in mainstream education, the social aspects of public education can be hard on an albino child. Since albinism affects a child's physical appearance, kids may treat albino children harshly for looking different. Families and teachers can help educate other students about albinism and the negative effects of bullying. Children may suffer from isolation and loneliness as a result of their genetic condition. Parents, family and friends can help an albino child by providing him with love, support and acceptance. African-American children with albinism may face added stress because they look different than their darker-colored family members. They may have a harder time being accepted by peer groups.
Myths About Albino People
There are different myths about albino people that are prevalent in our culture. One myth is that albino people have red eyes. Although some albinos can have reddish colored eyes, they can also have eyes that are brown, violet or hazel. The most common eye color is blue or slate gray. African-Americans with albinism tend to have green or hazel eyes. Although people with albinism have low or reduced vision, they are not completely blind. People with albinism may be able to drive, read or play sports. Another myth is that non-Caucasian albino people are a result of mixed marriages. The truth, however, is that non-Caucasian parents can have an albino child.