Community Development Health Science

Understanding albinism

Setfree N Mafukidze

Friends With Albinism

By Setfree N Mafukidze (RGN) 

Often times many myths and misconceptions have come up from various persons within societies regarding albinism.

For time immemorial those born with albinism have been treated unfairly with some cultures considering it a curse to give birth to a child with albinism.

In some cases, women who gave birth to children with this condition ended up out of marriages because their husbands did not understand why their wives would have given birth to a child with albinism. 

It is a forgone conclusion that albinism has not been understood by many for a very long time and to this day many do not understand it. In some countries such as Tanzania cases of ritual killings of people living with albinism have been noted.

It is in light of this that I found it necessary to publicise this article which seeks to give the reader an understanding of albinism and what causes it and its complications. 

Albinism is a group of disorders that are inherited and characterized by little or no production of the pigment melanin. The amount and type of melanin are what determines the colour of one’s eyes, hair and skin. Most people with albinism are sensitive to the sun and are considered to be at high risk of developing skin cancer.

There are several types of albinism and they are all as a result of predisposition to disease and family history of the disorder. 

The main cause of albinism is the mutation in one of several genes. The genes considered here are those responsible for various aspects of melanin production by what are known as melanocytes in the skin and eyes.

Depending on the mutation, melanin production is either stopped or slowed down. This may also lead to problems with the visual system in albinism. Vision problems occur because of melanin vital role in the development of the retina and optic nerve pathways from the eye to the brain.

The vision problems that occur in albinism may include photophobia (sensitivity to light), nystagmus (involuntary rapid eye movements), impaired vision, and blindness.

Those with albinism require regular checkups by Opticians and mostly require specialized eyewear to aid their vision. 

Albinism commonly leads to the experience of skin disorders including sunburns which may lead to skin cancer in some cases. Sunscreen lotions are necessary to prevent skin from direct heat, special lotions have been developed for people living with albinism.  

Among other challenges, those leaving with albinism face social and emotional problems mainly because people in communities they live in fail to relate to them due to a lack of understanding of the condition. 

Today’s society needs to understand albinism and accept that those with it as equal human beings. They deserve the support of those living with them without the fear of being stigmatized.

It is my hope that this article helps shape a new attitude towards people with albinism and those that give birth to those with the condition. 

Setfree N Mafukidze is a  Registered General Nurse and Health Promoter

About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende