wackyweasel (wackyweasel) wrote in little_details,

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Albinism and Vision

Hokay. I'm writing a YA fantasy novel (alternate world sword-and-sorcery) with a character who has OCA type 1 albinism. Due to the setting, none of the characters knows the basic causes of his coloring or how they might relate to the vision issues he has. And that's what I'm trying to determine - exactly what vision issues he ought to have.

I've checked out the site of the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation, and the About.com and Wikipedia articles, and Googled various permutations of "albinism" and "albino." I've seen repeated mentions of nystagmus, and of light sensitivity (which I'd kind of assumed), but I also get the impression that albinism is associated with a wide variety of vision problems. And then today I asked my optometrist, and he responded that "pretty much all" people with albinism are legally blind, that most have nystagmus, and that all of those he treats are colorblind (including African-Americans, who have some pigmentation even with albinism). I was surprised to hear about the colorblindness, and asked whether this varied depending on what type of albinism or how severe it was. He said no.

(I know not all people with albinism are colorblind. There is an account on the NOAH website wherein an albinistic person tries to describe his vision, and it sounds mostly pretty good - probably better than mine! :P)

My character definitely has light sensitivity. He wears tinted spectacles and carries a parasol outdoors, as well as having a small amount of magic geared toward protecting him from sunlight. (Despite being sword-and-sorcery, my fantasy world is closer to Elizabethan or even early Stuart-era technology than being really medieval, and of course magic plays a role as well.) But what I'm wondering (finally, the question!): How likely is he to have other serious eye issues? I have no problem with giving him nystagmus if that's very common, and I don't mind making his spectacles partly corrective. Because of the influence of magic, to which this (wealthy) character would have access, the lenses could even potentially correct for colorblindness or other issues.

I don't want to write this character in a way that's cliched or, worse, uninformed. (He's not evil, so that's a start, right?) So I would certainly be grateful for any other advice on what to do or not do with him. Thank you all!

P.S. If my optometrist is way off, please don't rag on him too much. He's a nice guy who practices in a small town, and may have a limited sample. He means well.
Tags: ~medicine (misc), ~medicine: ophthalmology & optometry

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