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What is albinism?

Albinism is a recessive genetic condition that that results in a lack of pigmentation in the hair skin and eyes. This lack of pigmentation (melanin) causes extreme senativity to the sun and to bright light.

How does someone get albinism?

Albinism is a genetic condition. It is typically autosomal recessive, which means each parent contributes one malfunctioning gene – so equally inherited from both parents.

How can you tell a person with albinism?

When a person has albinism they are remarkably pale in comparison to other members of their biological family and community. Although it is rare, it occurs in all races of the world.

What is Melanin?

Melanin is a natural substance that gives color to the hair, skin and iris of eye. Melanin is a photo protective pibment that plays major role in absorbing Ultra Violet (UV) radiation from the sun; hence the lack of it causes vulnerability to sun exposure and bright light.

Where is albinism most prevalent?

Albinism is more prevalent in the Sub-Saharan Africa than in other parts of the world. In Kenya the statistics on the actual number of persons with albinism are not known but there is an estimate of an occurrence ratio of 1:1500 people.

What causes albinism?

Albinism is a genetically recessive condition meaning that, both the mother and father must carry the gene for it to be passed on, even if they do not have albinism themselves. When both parents carry the gene, there is a 1 in 4 chance at each pregnancy that the child will have the condition.

Some rare instances of albinism are limited to the eyes (ocular albinism). In this case, the person has light colored eyes but normal colored skin and hair. This will be discussed below under the different types of Albinism

Types of albinism and their implications

There are various types of albinism and therefore a range of physical impact on persons who have the condition. The most common form is known as oculocutaneous albinism (OCA) and this affects the skin, hair and the eyes. People with oculotaneous albinism have little or no skin pigment called MELANIN. As a result, they also have very little natural protection against the sun’s rays. In places like Africa, where the hot tropical sun beats down mercilessly, less than 10% will live to age 30 and less than 2% will celebrate their 40th birthday due to skin cancer. The absence of melanin renders PWA highly prone to sun burn which in turn can lead to skin cancer and death if left untreated. People with this type of albinism need to take precautions to avoid damage to their skin caused by the sun. Damage to the skin can be avoided by regularly wearing sunscreen lotions, hats and sun-protective clothing which is clothing that covers skin from exposure to the sun. Persons with albinism in tropical countries such as Kenya must use appropriate skin protection, such as sunscreen lotions rated 30 SPF or higher and proper clothing to enjoy outdoor activities and a normal life span.

Type 2 of albinism is known as Ocular Albinism(OA). This is less common as it involves lack of pigment only in the eyes. People with ocular albinism have tan, reddish or normal skin and hair and at times normal eye appearance.

If two people with albinism have a child, will that child have albinism?

Not necessarily. When both parents carry the gene and neither of them have albinism (carriers) then there is 25% chance that the baby will be born with albinism. This type of inheritance is called autosomal recessive inheritance. On the other hand two people with albinism will not automatically produce an albino child although the risks are several times higher

Do people with albinism have to go to special schools?

No. Most children with albinism function well in a mainstream classroom, with proper accommodations.

How does the sun affect the skin of people with albinism?

People with albinism lack sufficient amounts of melanin, the protein that provides protection from the harmful rays of the sun. As a result, they are prone to sun burns, as well as skin cancers that are related to chronic sun exposure.

Can people with albinism go outside?

Absolutely. With proper sunscreen and sunglasses, they can go anywhere!

Is there a cure for albinism?

Currently, there is no treatment which can cause the body to produce melanin and lessen the symptoms of albinism.

What is the life span of a person with albinism? 

People with albinism can live long, healthy lives just as anyone else. The biggest danger comes from skin cancer which develops more easily from unprotected sun exposure. 

What does this specific expression/wording mean?

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