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Albinism and ocular albinism are inherited conditions where a person is lacking melanin pigment. In ocular albinism, only the eyes are affected, while the skin and hair color have normal melanin. This lack of pigment causes reduced visual acuity (central vision) to varying degrees but patients generally have good peripheral vision. In addition, most patients with albinism and ocular albinism have nystagmus (involuntary, rhythmic eye movements) and they may have significant refractive errors and so can benefit from spectacle or contact lens correction.

Even with glasses, most patients with albinism and ocular albinism are moderately to severely visually impaired. It is common for individuals with albinism to hold material close to read which can be very effective, but can lead to visual fatigue. The lack of pigment can lead to increased glare sensitivity especially in the bright sun.

Because albinism and ocular albinism are inherited and present at birth, the Vision Rehabilitation Service works in conjunction with schools and teachers of the visually impaired to ensure that patients are meeting their academic goals. Our physicians and therapists assess each person to determine the appropriate recommendations for tinted lenses to manage glare concerns, telescopic lenses for distance viewing in the classroom and community integration (i.e. reading street signs, bus numbers and addresses). Reading assessments to determine appropriate print size and form of material can be of critical value in navigating a child’s near needs and is part of the low vision evaluation. Ongoing work, counsel and prescribing of patients as they advance through their schooling and careers can be of great value to patients and their families

The level of visual impairment is variable with albinism and ocular albinism. We work closely with patients to determine the types of services needed. Some patients with albinism require orientation and mobility training while others are able to maintain a restricted driver’s license because of more mild visual impairment. The Vision Rehabilitation Service provides individualized plans based on specific goals and levels of visual impairment.

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