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Vision Information - Ocular Albinism

Vision Information - Ocular Albinism

Ocular albinism is an inherited condition in which the eyes lack melanin pigment, which is essential for normal vision. But the skin and hair show normal or near-normal coloration.

The lack of pigment in the eyes can give rise to several vision problems:

  • Sensitivity to bright light and glare.
  • Nystagmus - involuntary eye movement.
  • Reduced visual acuity from 20/60 to 20/400.
  • Strabismus - crossed eyes.

Impaired vision can result in difficulty at school, such as an inability to read the chalkboard and problems with ball games and sports.

The fovea, a small area of the retina that provides acute vision, has not developed completely in ocular albinism and, as a result, the eye is unable to process sharp light images. This also makes it very difficult to correct vision with eyewear. But some children may do well with ordinary eyeglasses and older children and adults can have small telescopes mounted on the lenses to help with both close and distant vision. Even contact lenses sometimes provide a correction that eyeglasses do not.

Surgery for strabismus may be helpful and can improve the field of vision if the eyes are crossed. This also can improve appearance and the child's self-image.

Parents concerned about the genetic implications of ocular albinism should consult a genetic counselor, particularly if they wish to have more children. Naturally they also should see an ophthalmologist for a full evaluation of the specific ocular albinism present.

Acceptance of the condition by the parents can lead to emotional and social adjustment in their children that will prevent low self-esteem, relationship difficulties and learning difficulties at school. Children can function well despite their visual disabilities if they are provided with appropriate support and services.

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