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Biology 103
2002 First Paper
On Serendip


Brenda Zea

Most people have a very biased and stereotyped view of people with albinism. Many see albinos as persons with white hair, white skin and red eyes. This is a common myth that has perpetuated itself because the truth about albinism is not widely known. One in 17,000 people in the United States has a form of albinism. (1) There are many different types of albinism, depending on the amount of melanin in a person's eyes. While some people have the fabled red or violet colored eyes, most albinos have blue eyes. Even fewer have hazel, brown or gray eyes. These discrepancies between reality and the red-eyed albino myth are the reason that most albinos do not even realize that they have a form of albinism. (1)

The two most common types of albinism are Oculocutaneous albinism (also known as type-1 albinism {or tyrosinase-related albinism} this affects hair, skin and eye color) and Ocular albinism (this affects mostly the eyes, but the skin and hair may have slight discoloration). (1) Most albinos have serious vision difficulties. Their eyes do not have the correct amount of melanin and during the fetal and infant stages of their life, this causes abnormal development of the macular hypoplasia (the fovea in the retina), as well as abnormal nerve connections between the brain and their eyes. (2) Many are considered legally blind, or have such poor eyesight that they must use intensive prescription bifocals. A few, however, have good enough visual acuity to drive a car. While limited eyesight can be a problem, many albinos have multiple sight deficiencies. Often albinism can also come with a nystagmus of the eyes or strabismus. Nystagmus is where eyes tend to jump and jerk in all directions, while strabismus means that the eyes do not focus together as a "binocular team. An eye may cross or turn out." (2) This often results in crossed-eyes or 'lazy eye'. (1) Albinos may also encounter photosensitivity (sensitivity to light) or have astigmatism (distorted field of view). When the eye does not have enough pigmentation, it cannot keep out excess light, thus making people incredibly sensitive to bright lights as too much enters their eye. (1)

Extremely rare forms of albinism, such as albinos with Hermansky-Pudlak syndrome, can experience problems with bruising, bleeding, and susceptibility to diseases that affect the bowels and lungs. (1) Of the rarer forms of albinism, Hermansky-Pudlak syndrome is the most frequent. As persons with this syndrome can develop other physical problems in addition to their eyes, their life span is not as long as other albinos' lives.

While this group of albinos is at risk from themselves, 'normal' albinism can create problems of its own. If an albino person spends too much time out in the sun (this occurs mostly in albinos from tropical countries), they can develop skin cancer. While most of these cancers are treatable, they can only be treated if the facilities are available. (3)

Fortunately, albinism is not very common in most cultures because it is either caused by a rare recessive gene (this requires both of your parents to carry the gene in order for you to be albino), or an even rarer case, in which albinism is caused by genetic mutation. The most common type of inheritance is "autosomal recessive inheritance". (1) As only 1 in 70 people even carries a gene for Oculocutaneous albinism (OCA), even if two people who carry it have children, there is only a 50% chance that they will even pass the gene. This means that for each pregnancy there is only a 25% chance that the child will have both the albinism genes. (3)

As albinism is such a rare occurrence, people who are albino are often met with hostility and misunderstanding. Often albino children are teased at school and find it hard to fit in (this is especially true when the child is from a normally dark-skinned race – they stand out from their peers). A real eye-opener for the entire country came when in 1998, Rick Guidotti published a photo-journal in the June edition of Life Magazine. He was one of the first people to portray albinos as normal, fashionable people. While this helped the albino community a little, there is still not a wide acceptance of albinism as old stereotypes thrive even in modern culture. (4) (5)



1)NOAH – National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation, A national organization about albinism and albinos

2), A small site with interesting albinism facts and photos

3)The International Albinism Center at the University of Minnesota, An extensive website about albinism

4)Albinism Website, A small website about albinos in pop-culture

5)Rick Guidotti Homepage, A famous high-fashion photographer changes his image and focuses entirely on albinos and how to represent them to the world



Continuing conversation
(to contribute your own observations/thoughts, post a comment below)

11/09/2005, from a Reader on the Web

I just wanted to say thanks to whoever wrote the paper on Albinos. It helped me understand this disorder a lot better because i had to do a project on it. And to this web site for being so simple with finding information.


Additional comments made prior to 2007
I think its cool that somebody is doing something for albinos. I am an albino and i used to want to be model, but i never thought that i could so i never pursed it ... Khadiya, 20 February 2006



WOW!! That was a very good article! I usually dont read alot of informational articles but this one was ver interesting! It was short and it never left ANYTHING out! I've always wondered how Albinism occured in people and animals. There are still some things missing after the article though. For instance, Can bugs get Albinism? and can tree's and plants also ger Albinism? It would be good to put a bit of facts at the end. But this article was VERY VERY good! Thank you so much for helping me understand!! ... Reader on the web, 18 June 2006



This was a wonderful help. I aspire to be an author and my book is about cloning and albinism. In the book, people have been cloned, and they are the same--except the clones are albinos, or at least look like them. Their hair and skin is pale and their eyes go from grey to violet (only a select few have violet or red in this book, thanks to this article). But these albinos have terrific night-vision. If my book ever gets published, I'll thank this site! ... Ashley, 21 August 2006



I just want to take the time to say this is a very good understanding about this disorder! It allows people that are living with this condition to cope better. I know someone who has a child that was born this way it was very for her to cope with at first, but now he is just as beautiful as he could be and has grown to be very confident within himself ... Ebony, 25 August 2006


mahmud beg's picture

case studies on subject of albinism

Please can you help on this topic I have to write an essayof 3000 word,especially as it affects vision.

Kyle_guy's picture

Work sited

it would be a good idea (for future visitors to your site) to place a MLA or some sort of citation in case they wish to use this as a reference on a paper. If there already is, then ignore this comment. please respond though with knowledge on its location on this page- thank you

Phanice Wamukota's picture

on toes

Im in Kenya, found in East Africa and doing a project on this. thanks. I'l let you knw my progress coz I have this deep desire to make this thing a success.

+Sam's picture


Hello, for those who are wondering if albinism appears in all species should read this article:
Thank you.

Anonymous's picture

Mild Albinism

Question, my father's hair turned white at a very young age, he sunburnt very badly, and had bluey,violet eyes,before his hair turned white it was red, I have inherited these traits from him and now wonder whether it is a mild form of albinism. yours sincerely, janet

Anonymous's picture

I am albino. but i have green

I am albino. but i have green eyes... I am not really sensitive to lights, but i do have versoin i have very fair skin as well. I have a question here. I really want to drive car, Coz it is my last year in university. and it is really not conviance for me to go to work everyday without a car.
I do not know what i should do. please help me...

Kelli's picture

There are services at the DMV

There are services at the DMV for individuals with low vision. Each state has different procedures, but it is certainly possible for you to get your license. You will probably have to jump through many hoops (i.e. doctor visits to verify your level of visual acuity, special driver's training, etc). You may be required to wear your glasses when you are driving. It will say so on your license. My husband has the same condition as you and has been driving for many years now. Sometimes not all of the people at the DMV are as knowledgable as others regarding this program. You may have to go through Disabilites, for low vision, at the DMV to talk to the people you need. Hope this helps.

Anonymous's picture


My first grandchild was born with albinism, and we are all struggling with it. anyone who can help me will be appreciated.

Someone's picture


Very, very interesting!!! Question; if an albino's eyes are grey, do they still suffer from bad vision, or doesn't it matter what colour their eyes are?

In any case, this is great, and extremely informative. Thanks. :-)

Jordyn's picture


I'm albino I have to be I have super blue eyes glasses cause by vision sucks I'm really sensitive to light I have really blond hair not only that but I'm whiter then white can get I get teased all the time "oh jordyn you blend into the wall". Also I FRY in the sun my mom has to put sunscreen on every 5 seconds other wise I'll get really sunburn. Thank you very helpful

morgan's picture


this is awsome i got so much info for my project! i ended up getting and A on the project and i got most of my info from this page!

Anonymous's picture

this article was very

this article was very interesting and had all the information i needed for my project. thanks!

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