What is Albinism and how does it occur?
It is a genetic condition that affects normal development of skin pigmentation.
The genetic structure that influences Albinism lacks the ability to produce developed amounts of pigments called melanin, a photo protective pigment.
Born with a different skin tone, Albinos are normal human beings, only that they are affected by a hereditary condition.
Such a person is born in a family with history of altered genes, either in both parents or just one of them.
Often, such parents can only be carriers of the genes and not necessarily affected by it.These parents have normal skin tone, hair color and visual status. During reproduction, the genes mutate resulting into an offspring affected by Albinism. Lack of pigmentation is most noticeable where a child is born to dark-skinned parents.
This condition is then manifested through their skin, eyes and/or hair.
Causes of albinism.
Albinism is often caused by nutritional deficiencies; such as the absence of amino acids such as tyrosine. These nutrients are essential for the healthy development of cellular pigments.
Their deficiency and complete lack in the body influences Albinism development. Such acids take part in metabolic processes deriving and converting melanin from enzymes.
Another important nutrient is copper. A trace element, it increases pigmentation of the skin reducing the chances of Albinism. It participates in metabolizing the melanin from the enzymes, since it is a transformation agent.
Abundance of copper in the body, at recommended levels though, actively decreases the chances of one being Albino. It aids the pigments to retain melanin thus a dark skin tone.
Types, signs and symptoms of albinism.
The common types of albinism are type A, type B and oculocutaneous albinism (OCA).
- Type A is caused by a deficiency of melanin.
- Type B is caused by a defect in P gene.
- Other types are Ocular albinism type 1(OA1) ;affects only the eyes.
- Hermansky – pudlak syndrome (HPS) is another type which is caused by a single gene.
OCA is the most severe form of albinism. It is characterised by white or pink hair, eye colour and visual complications.
There are three types of OCA; OCA 1, OCA 2 and OCA 3.
- OCA 1 is characterized by total absence of pigmentation, sensitivity to light(photo-phobia), reduced visual acuity and nystagmus.
- OCA 2 has moderate pigmentation but with similar eye probles as OCA 1.
- OCA3 has eye problems but not as severe as OCA1.
The health challenges and effects of albinism.
Considered a special group, Albinos face a lot of health challenges in life. Since birth, the perception of being abnormal lingers closely throughout their lives. Easily notable, their skin tone draws mixed reactions across the globe.
In some cultures, Albinism is considered a curse befallen to humanity. In some developed cultures, due to the desensitization of the public, it is realized and understood that Albinos are normal people just with a different skin tone from others.
Due to the lightness of the skin, people with Albinism have eye problems.
Visual impairment is a challenge in Albinos, resulting from abnormal development of the retina. Eye sight disorders in Albinos are also influenced by the development of abnormal nerve connections between the brain and the eyes.
The motion in their eyes referred to as nystagmus, is common in albinos.
In other cases, strabismus, the crossing or turn out of the eyes occurs.
The degree of visual impairment varies across the different types of Albinism. Some Albinos are fully impaired whereas other can see quite normally. Although medical professionals can help treat eye complications in them, they cannot offer a lasting cure for their predicament. Through tools such as surgery or glasses prescription, pain and other effects of light are reduced and managed.
Due to the lack of pigments in their skin, sunlight easily damages their skins.
This predicament can only be managed as there is no cure for the lack of the pigments. Techniques such as avoidance of excessive exposure to direct sunlight is recommended. The use of protective products such as sun creams and gels is also recommended to prevent the sun-rays from penetrating and damaging the skin.
To reduce the cases of Albinism, strategies such as genetic counseling are adopted by families. This is whereby the genetic structure in the family lineage is studied and Albinism carriers identified. With this information, one can then avoid a setting where it is more likely to influence Albinism in their offspring. This though requires mutual understanding of albinism between the two partners.
- About 1 in every 17000 people has albinism.
- It is a hereditary disease caused by lack or deficiency of melanin.
- Albinos or persons affected by albinism are normal human beings.
- Albinism is characterised by light skin and hair tone and visual complications.