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What is Albinism?

Albinism is an inherited condition where a person is unable to produce normal colouring of the skin, hair and eyes (lack of pigments) The condition can be limited to the eye or involve the eye and the skin.

What causes Albinism?

Albinism is caused by defects in the hereditary material that determines skin colour. People who have normal pigmentation could be carriers of the hereditary material that is defective for skin colour.

A carrier mother and father can pass their defective skin colour information on to their children which could then have albinism. It is important to note that a child with albinism received the defective information from both parents and that it is common for parents with normal skin colour to have a child with albinism. As explained above, albinism is an inherited, generic disorder. Parents of a baby with albinism should never feel guilty about this, it is not their fault. It is a condition caused by the specific albinism genes that a baby has inherited form his/her mother and after at the time on conception.

What are the signs and symptoms?


  • Light brown to pale blue in colour
  • Sensitivity to the sun ( photophobia)
  • Fast involuntary back and forth movement of the eyes, which improves with age (nystagmus).
  • Squinting (strabismus)
  • Visual impairment and low vision.


  • Very light and pale in colour
  • Freckling or pigmented patches might develop on sun –exposed areas (ephedlides).
  • Very sensitive to the sun (burns easily)
  • Hair

    • Hair color ranges from white, yellow, light brown to reddish.
    • Eye lashes and brows whitish.


    • Within the normal range, although infants with albinism may seem a little slower at first because of the visual problems with which they later learn to cope.
    • It is important to note that not all these signs and symptoms are present in all individuals with albinism and even siblings may vary in colouring and severity of symptoms.

    Skin Care

    • Because of the lack of pigments, the eyes and skin of people with albinism are very sensitive to light.
    • Due to this sensitivity people with albinism may develop sores on their skin that could develop to skin cancer.
    • To protect the eyes and skin from the harmful effects of the sun it is recommended that people with albinism:
      1. Keep out of the sun especially between 11h00 to 13h00
      2. Use sun barrier cream with art least SPF 25 (sun protection factor) on sun exposed areas.
      3. Use lip protection cream of at least SPF 25
      4. Use large brimmed hats.
      5. Long sleeved cotton shirts and blouses with high collars
      6. Wear long trousers and slacks whenever possible, to protect the legs.

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This page last edited on 17 January, 2019

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