Albinism: Meaning, Types and Prevention

Albinism: Meaning, Types and Prevention

The word albino comes from the Latin word “albus,” which means white. People with albinism are sometimes called albinos. “A person with albinism” is the preferred term.

Is albinism a disease?

Albinism isn’t a disease. Albinism is a genetic condition that people are born with. It’s not contagious, and it can’t be spread.

What are the different types of albinism?

There are several different types of albinism. Levels of pigmentation vary depending on which type of albinism you have. The different types of albinism include:

  • Oculocutaneous albinism: Oculocutaneous (pronounced “ock-you-low-kew-TAIN-ee-us”) albinism, or OCA, is the most common type of albinism. People with OCA have extremely pale hair, skin and eyes. There are seven different subtypes of OCA, caused by mutations in one of seven genes (OCA1 to OCA7).
  • Ocular albinism: Ocular albinism, or OA, is much less common than OCA. Ocular albinism affects only your eyes. People with OA usually have blue eyes. Sometimes your irises (colored part of your eyes) are very pale, so your eyes may appear red or pink. This is because the blood vessels inside your eyes show through the irises. Your skin and hair color are usually normal.
  • Hermansky-Pudlak syndrome: Hermansky-Pudlak syndrome, or HPS, is a type of albinism that includes a form of OCA along with blood disorders, bruising issues and lung, kidney or bowel diseases.
  • Chediak-Higashi syndrome: Chediak-Higashi syndrome is a type of albinism that includes a form of OCA along with immune and neurological issues.

Can albinism be prevented?

Albinism is an inherited condition. People with a family history of albinism should consider genetic counseling.

Outlook / Prognosis

What complications can occur because of albinism?

People with albinism may experience any of the following complications:

  • Skin problems: Due to their light-colored skin, people with albinism have an increased risk of sunburn. They also have an increased risk of skin cancer.
  • Vision problems: People with albinism may be legally blind, but they can learn to use their vision over time. Some people may be able to correct problems with astigmatism, farsightedness and nearsightedness with eyeglasses or contacts.
  • Social problems: People with albinism are at an increased risk of isolation due to the social stigma behind the condition.
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What is the outlook for albinism?

Most people with albinism live a normal life span. People with Hermansky-Pudlak syndrome and Chediak-Higashi syndrome are at an increased risk of a shortened life span due to associated conditions.

Living With

Can people with albinism live a normal life?

People with albinism can lead normal, healthy lives. However, you should limit the amount of time you spend outdoors due to sun exposure. Some people with albinism deal with social isolation due to the stigma of the condition. You should talk to your family, friends and therapists for support with your condition.

When should I see my healthcare provider?

If you develop any symptoms that cause physical discomfort, call your healthcare provider. Also, call if you noticed any new skin changes.

While albinism is a rare genetic condition, it can affect people from all walks of life. If you or a family member are suffering from the effects of living with albinism, call your healthcare provider. Albinism can have a profound impact on you and your family. Your healthcare provider can help you navigate the various aspects of living with the condition.


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