Albinism can sometimes have profound effects on vision and eye health. The disease can affect the amount of pigment present in the back of the eye as well as the development of the neural connections between the eyes and the brain, causing problems such as nearsightedness, astigmatism, light sensitivity, and glare. Fortunately, eyeglasses may significantly improve your child's overall eye problems.
Albinism and Eye ColorChildren with albinism usually have blue eyes, but some have brownish-colored eyes. Some children will even appear to have pink or red eyes, because the iris doesn't contain much pigment. The pinkish color results due to a lack of pigment in the iris. The inside of the eye will also appear very light because the eyes lack the pigment that is contained in the layer directly beneath the retina.
Albinism and Refractive ErrorsChildren with albinism tend to be nearsighted or farsighted and often have large amounts of astigmatism. Glasses or contact lenses can be used to correct these vision problems.
Albinism and Light SensitivityChildren with albinism can have profound light sensitivity. In a normal eye, the iris helps to shield the retina from bright light. When a child has albinism, their iris is sometimes so light in color that it can't properly control the amount of light that hits the retina. Also, because the back of the eye also lacks pigment, light is not absorbed properly and scatters, creating more light sensitivity. These children require sun protection, including quality sunglasses or tinted contact lenses.
Some children with albinism may benefit from a permanent tint in their prescription eyeglasses that is light enough to function indoors. Children with albinism may also benefit from photochromic lenses. Photochromic lenses darken to a grey or brown shade when in sunlight and automatically lighten back to clear indoors. Many different types of photochromic lenses are available today and they may benefit from photochromic lenses that turn darker outside but do not necessarily lighten up completely when indoors. They remain slightly tinted indoors.
Albinism and GlareGlare is light that is reflected off surfaces such as water, waxed floors and white sand. Glare can make even the cloudiest day uncomfortable for children with albinism. Because glare can be debilitating to these children, polarized sunglass lenses are highly recommended. Polarized sunglasses reduce not only the amount of light that enters the eye but they also virtually eliminate associated glare. Polarized lenses can make children with albinism much more comfortable and deliver a much better visual experience for them. Polarized lenses are available in many different colors and are available in both constant tints and photochromic options.
To further enhance comfort for children with albinism, many doctors and opticians recommend adding a mirror coating to their sunglass lenses. A mirror coating will reduce the amount of light that reaches the eyes even further and deflect the light that bounces up and enters the eye from below.
Albinism and Other Vision ProblemsChildren with albinism may also develop other vision problems that will require attention, such as nystagmus and strabismus. Nystagmus is an involuntary flicker of the eyes. Nystagmus usually causes a child to make quick, jittery movements by both eyes. Strabismus is an eye muscle condition that causes one or both eyes to turn in, out, up or down.
Nystagmus and strabismus are vision conditions that can be treated by an ophthalmologist or eye surgeon. In some cases, surgery may be required.
Gibb, Joy L. Children’s Visual Disorders and Eyewear Solutions. "Understanding children’s eye wear", a supplement to Vision Care Product News, June 2011.