Albinism is an inherited disorder

Tony Ngwenya

Tony Ngwenya

Albinism has been defined as an inherited absence of pigment, hypomelanosis.

It is limited to the eye in ocular albinism, or involves the eye and skin in oculocutaneous albinism.

Fast, rhythmical movement of the eye (nystagmus) decreased visual acuity and fear of light (photophobia) are present.

Oculocutaneous albinism is more common than ocular albinism and is inherited as an autosomal recessive disorder. In addition to poor vision, people with oculocutaneous albinism have hypopigmented skin, which sunburns very easily and is highly susceptible to skin cancer. Though young children with albinism may be slower to crawl and walk because of visual problems, it is important to remember that their intelligence is within the normal range.

In the South African black population, about one in 3900 people have oculocutaneous albinism, while it is less common in the white population - one in 15000 people. There are about 10000 affected individuals in SA.

l The author is the chief executive of the Albinism Society of South Africa (Assa). Sowetan has adopted the Assa's National Schools Essay Competition on Albinism as a youth development project of the Aggrey Klaaste Nation Building Foundation.