Problem

Albinism

Other Names:
Melanin deficiency
Nature:

Albinism is a group of inherited conditions which result in the absence of pigmentation in the skin, hair and/or the retina of the eye. People and animals with albinism lack protection from light and radiation and lack the distinctive colouration which normal pigmentation provides. Defective vision, photophobia and nystagmus are additional handicaps. As a result, albino animals are rarely able to survive in the wild. In man, at least three different forms of albinism occur, depending on the degree of lack of melanin: universal complete albinism, also called oculocutaneous albinism, involving the skin, hair and eyes; ocular albinism, in which only the eyes are affected; and localized albinism, the commonest form, in which small areas of the body lack pigment (white locks, spotlings). Albinism is a serious disablement, especially among non-white groups, because an albino's physical appearance is completely in contrast with that of the other members of community, exposing him to mockery, discrimination and social exclusion.

Background:

Although the physical problems of low vision and sun sensitivity are the same for both whites and non-whites, the social problems of non-whites are compounded. In the Caucasian races blond hair, blue eyes, and alabaster skin are considered so highly desirable that brunettes often bleach their hair or wear coloured contacts. The Victorians wore white wigs and powdered their skin to a chalky white. Fairy tale heroines are said to have skin white as snow.

The same physical attributes in darker races are taboo. Individuals in these races often are ostracized because of erroneous beliefs and unfounded fears. A basic theme in many variations in that God is delivering judgement on a family with albinism and that the individual with albinism is cursed, or is the embodiment of sin. In some religions and societies, this curse may seem true. Anyone taking as a partner a person with albinism must be prepared to suffer ridicule and disapproval from family, friends, or even the church.

Another belief is that the person with albinism is the result of incest or inbreeding. The most common myth of today is that the non-Caucasian person with albinism must be the result of mixed marriage. Those who hold this view are unaware that people with albinism existed in societies of colour before those societies had any contact with Caucasians.

Peers sometimes accuse black people with albinism of "trying to pass." Indeed, some have found having albinism so painful that it is simply easier to be "white." Peers may believe that the hard-earned achievements of a black person with albinism resulted from a white teacher or supervisor favouring the him or her.

Incidence:

One person in 17,000 has some type of albinism. Albinism affects people from all races. The incidence seems higher in non-white races because people with albinism are more instantly recognizable, and because traditional studies of albinism have been done in smaller closely related tribes where there seem to be more affected individuals. Most children with albinism are born to parents who have normal hair and eye colour for their ethnic backgrounds.

Related Problems:
Unsightly skin blemishes
Values:
Deficiency
Organizations:
Albinism World Alliance
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 1: No PovertyGOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being
Problem Type:
E: Emanations of other problems
Date of last update
23.04.2019 – 14:11 CEST