This love is more than skin deep
Posted Wednesday, May 9 2012 at 00:00
What is Albinism?
Albinism is an inherited genetic condition that causes little or no pigmentation in the eyes, skin, or hair.
It causes a lack or deficiency in melanin in the body, the photo protective pigment that protects one from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. This results in physical characteristics like white or light blond hair, violet to hazel eyes, and pale skin that is particularly sensitive to the sun.
Albinism is inherited. It is not contagious, therefore you cannot “catch” it from someone else. People are born with albinism because they inherit an albinism gene or genes (autosomal recessive) from both parents.
In some parts of Africa where studies have been done, albinism is estimated to affect as many as one in every 1,000 people.
In Kenya, statistics of its occurrence are not available, since little national attention is paid to the condition.
However, information from the Kikuyu Eye Unit, a hospital that works with the visually impaired, shows that 13 per cent of their patients are persons with albinism.
Most forms of albinism are the result of biological inheritance of genetically recessive genes, passed on from both parents.
When both parents carry the gene, and neither of them has albinism, there is a one in four chance at every pregnancy that the baby will be born with albinism.
For nearly all types of albinism, both parents must carry an albinism gene to have a child with albinism.
Because the body has two sets of genes, a person may have normal pigmentation but carry the albinism gene.
Recently, a blood test that can identify carriers of the gene for some types of albinism was developed.
A similar test during amniocentesis can diagnose some types of albinism in an unborn child. Genetic counselling is recommended for all couples wishing to start a family.