February 23, 2010

Albinism (Hypopigmentation) – Types, & Causes

Posted in Category : Common Ailments

Albinism is a disorder in which the production of melanin in the body is impaired. It is usually an inherited disorder in which an individual doesn’t have pigmentation in the hair, skin and eye. Also known as hypopigmentation or ocular albinism, this is a chronic disorder.

Albinism is a genetic disorder in which the body doesn’t have melanocytes, the cells that produce the pigment melanin. Sometimes, the body is able to produce melanin but is unable to distribute it. The melanin is a pigment that gives color to our skin, irises and hair.

Types of Albinism

Albinism is of two types, namely albinism type 1 and albinism type 2. Both the types of albinism have the same symptom but different causes. Albinism type 1 is caused when the body is unable to produce or distribute the pigment melanin and the albinism type 2 is caused when there is a defect in the gene ‘P’.

There is also the Oculo-cutaneous albinism that is both rare and severe. This type of albinism causes the people to have completely white or pink hair. Their skin and iris are also pale white or pink. People suffering from oculo –cutaneous albinism often have vision problems.

When the gene encrypting the natural pigment melanin is defective, the skin can become pale like in albinism. Usually the color is due to the pigment melanin. This pigment also protects us from the harmful ultra violet rays. Skin produces more melanin to counter the ultraviolet rays. This causes tanning and this why people who live in hot areas are darker than those who have limited sun exposure. The lesser an individual is exposed to the sun, the paler his or her skin is. However, those who do have this pigment also have no natural protection against the harmful ultraviolet rays and therefore have to be very careful when stepping out in the sun.

Though most people suffering from albinism can lead normal and otherwise healthy lives, there are some forms of this disorder that can be life threatening. People who suffer from this condition usually have white, yellow and sometimes pale brown colored hair. Their skin is pale and some may have patches of colored skin too. There are also those who may have slightly red or violet colored irises but most have blue or light colored eyes.

This is a recessive genetic disorder and it is possible that parents of those who suffer from this condition might have never experienced albinism.

The parents of most children with albinism have normal hair and eye color and do not have a family history of albinism. This is a recessive type of inherited disorder which means that the chance of it being passed from one generation to the next is low.