(See also Overview of Skin Pigment.)
Albinism is a disorder of skin pigmentation that occurs in people of all ethnicities and throughout the world. It is caused by several rare genetic disorders that, in addition to causing hypopigmentation (an abnormally low amount of melanin) or depigmentation (complete loss of pigment) of the skin, also affect the eyes with decreased vision, misalignment of the eyes (strabismus), and involuntary eye movements (nystagmus).
A type of albinism, called ocular albinism, affects the eyes but usually not the skin and hair. Another type of albinism occurs with bleeding disorders.
Albinism is easily recognized by its typical appearance, including white hair, pale or white skin, and pink or pale blue-gray eyes. People's eyes are very sensitive to light and they often try to avoid bright light.
People who have less typical types of albinism may have some color to their skin, their hair may be somewhat red, and/or their eyes may be blue or brown.
Because melanin protects the skin from the sun, people with albinism are very prone to sunburn and skin cancer (especially squamous cell carcinoma). Even a few minutes of bright sunlight can cause serious sunburn.
The degree to which clothing, even when it covers the body, protects against UV light varies. Generally, the tighter the weave and the heavier the weight, the more protection a fabric provides. Clothing can also be treated with a substance that temporarily increases its UPF. UPF clothing has become more comfortable and easier to find at most sporting goods stores.
Doctors can correct strabismus with a surgical procedure.