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7 months ago
Albinism in humans, from the Latin word albus-white, is a congenital disorder characterized by complete or partial lack of pigment of the skin, hair and eyes, which occurs due to the absence or defect of tyrosinase, an enzyme that contains copper and participates in melanin synthesis.
Melanin is the name for a group of pigments that determine the color of the skin, eyes and hair, and are produced by cells called melanocytes. Albinism has 1 in 20,000 people worldwide.
In humans, there are two main types of albinism: oculocutaneous, which affects the eyes, skin, and hair; and ocular which affects only the eyes.
Most people with oculocutaneous albinism are white or very pale, because melanin, which is responsible for brown, black and some yellow colors, is not present. Ocular albinism results in light blue eyes, and may require genetic testing to be diagnosed.
Because people with albinism have skin that is completely lacking the pigment melanin, which helps protect the skin from the sun's ultraviolet radiation, their skin burns more easily due to sun exposure.
Albinism is often associated with visual impairment caused by a lack of pigment in the eye. Vision problems can be manifested as farsightedness or short-sightedness, involuntary movements of the eyeballs, difficulties in fixing and tracking objects, reduced perception of depth, sensitivity to light (photophobia). However, albinism is not the cause of complete visual impairment. One of the myths about people with albinism is that they have pink or red eyes. The fact is that albino people can have gray, blue or brown eyes. If their eyes appear to be red, it is because light is reflected from the back of the eye, just as when a red eye appears in photographs.
People with albinism are generally as healthy as the rest of the population but there may be associated disorders. Their growth and development are normal. Albinism in itself is not deadly, although a lack of pigmentation that blocks ultraviolet radiation increases the risk of melanoma (skin cancer) and other problems.
Albino people are often exposed to discrimination and other social problems because of their unusual appearance, especially if they belong to an ethnic community that has dark skin, specifically white black people.
The United Nations has established that June 13 will be the International Day of Awareness of Albinism.