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Albinism: Classification, Clinical Characteristics, and Recent Findings

Summers, C Gail*

Optometry and Vision Science: June 2009 - Volume 86 - Issue 6 - p 659-662
doi: 10.1097/OPX.0b013e3181a5254c

Purpose. To describe the clinical characteristics and recent findings in the heterogeneous group of inherited disorders of melanin biosynthesis grouped as “albinism.”

Methods. The current classification of albinism, and the cutaneous, ocular, and central nervous system characteristics are presented. Recent clinical findings are summarized.

Results. Albinism is now classified based on genes known to be responsible for albinism. Foveal hypoplasia is invariably present and individuals with albinism often have delayed visual development, reduced vision, nystagmus, a positive angle kappa, strabismus, iris transillumination, and absent or reduced melanin pigment in the fundi. A visual-evoked potential can document the excessive retinostriate decussation seen in albinism. Grating acuity can be used to document delayed visual development in preverbal children. Glasses are often needed to improve visual acuity and binocular alignment.

Conclusions. Albinism is caused by several different genes. Heterogeneity in clinical phenotype indicates that expressivity is variable.


Departments of Ophthalmology and Pediatrics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

This work was supported, in part, by an unrestricted grant from Research for the Prevention of Blindness, New York, NY.

Received September 3, 2008; accepted December 11, 2008.

© 2009 American Academy of Optometry