Albinism is a congenital disorder that is characterized by either a complete or partial lack of pigmentation (melanin) of the skin and the hair so that the child appears to have very light skin and white or very fair hair. In some cases, albinism may affect only the eyes, and it can happen in people of all ethnic groups and races.
Symptoms of Albinism
This condition is noted at birth, when the baby appears to have extremely fair skin and hair; even eyelashes and eyebrows which may be almost invisible due to their color. Since the eyes lack pigmentation they can appear peculiarly colorless or may have a red or purple tinge.
The melanin is present in the human body to protect it from sun damage and the absence or lack of this melanin is what requires parents to be extra careful about their albino children.
The main problems that parents of albino (complete absence of melanin) or albinoid (diminished melanin) children is the fact that they may have some vision problems and that their skin would need great care so as not to sustain severe and repeated sunburn.
Vision problems may include Photophobia which is an abnormal intolerance to light causing pain or discomfort.
Children could also have Nystagmus wherein they display a rapid, uncontrollable, involuntary eye movement and other visual defects such as reduced vision due to light induced damage to the retina. Albino kids may be near sighted or far sighted and may in cases be cross eyed. The child may have the kind of visual impairment that prevents them from seeing fine detail.
Normal milestones may be somewhat delayed due to inadequate vision.
How parents can help manage albinism in their children
Albinism has no cure and all that is generally required is proper management techniques in terms of vision aids, visual rehabilitation (in some cases surgery can help) and sun protection. School can be a challenge and children may need assistance here.
Parents also need to be careful about their child’s skin because it can burn even on cloudy days. Quality sun glasses, hats, long sleeved shirts and long pants with shoes and good quality sun block (minimum SPF 30) on any exposed bits of skin should be used.
Some albino kids can suffer from stigmatization and ridicule as a result of their appearance and parents would also have to be sensitive to detect such problems that the child may face from peers and at school.