Albinism is a rare genetic condition affecting about 1000 Australians (1 in 17,000). Albinism is inherited via a recessive gene that is passed from both the mother and the father of a person affected with the condition. It causes the body to be unable, or have limited ability to produce melanin which is responsible for the colouring in skin, hair and eyes. Albinism can affect the eyes, skin and hair (Oculocutaneous Albinism) or only the eyes (Ocular Albinism).
Most people with albinism have some degree of vision impairment, many are classed as ‘legally blind’. The vision impairment is caused by the reduced ability or complete inability to produce melanin which is essential in the development and function of the eye. Melanin is essential for the development of the optic nerve, the retina, the fovea (part of the retina that is responsible for seeing fine detail) and is the main component that makes the eye colour in the iris.