Differences between vitiligo and albinism

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What are the differences between vitiligo and albinism?
Vitiligo and albinism are two skin conditions characterized by a defect in skin pigmentation, with some differences.

Albinism is a congenital disease characterized by the complete or partial absence of melanin. Vitiligo, on the other hand, is a condition characterized by a part of the skin that loses its pigment, thus showing white patches.

Melanin is a pigment that gives color to our body and is present:

  • skin
  • eyes
  • hair
  • hairs

What is albinism?

Albinism is a hereditary condition of recessive genetic alleles (two or more alternative forms of the same gene found in the same position on each homologous chromosome), and is commonly an autosomal recessive disorder.

Lack of pigmentation can range from complete absence to minor deficiency depending on the underlying genetic defect.

There are two types of albinism: oculocutaneous and ocular.

People with albinism have a lack of the pigmented melanin that is needed to shield the skin from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.
In this condition, therefore, the skin can be damaged easily and have a greater risk of skin cancer.

Albinism is also related to a number of visual pathologies such as:

  • photophobia which is the difficulty in looking at a light source
  • Nystagmus involves back and forth movements of the eyeball
  • amblyopia known as blurred vision.

There is no known cure for albinism, because it is not considered a disease.

It is important for people prone to albinism to prevent sunburn and to have regular skin checks by a dermatologist, as they are exposed to an increased risk of skin cancer.

Oculocutaneous albinism

It is an inherited disease of melanin biosynthesis characterized by the generalized reduction of the pigmentation of the hair, skin and eyes.
Oculocutaneous albinism gives variable ocular signs, including nystagmus, photophobia and reduced visual acuity.

Ocular albinism

Instead, ocular albinism mainly affects the eyes. This type of albinism is caused by a reduction and altered distribution of the melanin pigment in the eye, particularly in the iris and retina.

What is Vitiligo?

The cause of vitiligo remains largely unknown, however researchers suggest it is triggered by autoimmune, genetic, oxidative stress, or a viral infection.

Differences between vitiligo and albinism

As mentioned above, albinism is the complete or partial absence of melanin, in vitiligo it is only a part of the skin that loses pigment.

Furthermore, there are also these differences between the two conditions:

  • Vitiligo, in most cases, is an acquired disease, while albinism is a genetic disease.
  • Vitiligo, unlike albinism, does not involve visual problems.
  • Vitiligo affects one part of the body, while albinism affects the whole
  • Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease, albinism is not.

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