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Living with albinism

By | March 27th 2011

It is not easy living with albinism, and so when people point fingers at people with the condition, make nasty comments and avoid socialising with them, or even try to kidnap them to sell them off due to misconceived notions that their body parts can make one rich, life becomes more difficult. Four of them spoke exclusively to NJOKI CHEGE about their lives

Albinism is a disorder characterised by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes due to absence or defect of an enzyme involved in the production of melanin. It results from inheritance of the recessive genes.

Albinism is associated with a number of vision defects. The human eye normally produces enough pigment to colour the iris and lend opacity to the eye. However, there are cases in which the eyes of a person with albinism appear red or purple, depending on the amount of pigmentation present. Lack of pigmentation in the eyes also results in problems with vision, related and unrelated to photosensitivity.

Lack of skin pigmentation makes the organism more susceptible to sunburn and skin cancers. Most people with albinism appear white or pale as the melanin pigments responsible for brown, black and some yellow colouration are not present. Because individuals with albinism have skin that partially or entirely lacks the dark pigment melanin that helps protect the skin from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, their skin can burn more easily from over-exposure.

People with albinism are generally as healthy as the rest of the population, with growth and development occurring as normal. Albinism by itself does not cause mortality, although the lack of pigment increases the risk of skin cancer and other problems.

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