General: There is no cure for albinism. Treatment aims to reduce symptoms and prevent complications. In many cases, treatment may not be needed.
Antibiotics: For people with albinism who are prone to infection, antibiotics may be prescribed for short-term or long-term use.
Corrective lenses: Vision can be improved by the use of corrective lenses. In addition, sensitivity to bright light may be improved by wearing tinted lenses. In cases of severe visual impairment, bifocals or bioptics (telescopic lenses mounted on glasses) may be prescribed. Strabismus (crossed eyes) may be treated early in life by placing a patch over one eye to promote the use of the less active eye.
Sunscreen: There is no treatment for lack of pigment in the skin of people who have albinism. However, because they are at increased risk for sunburn and skin cancer, people with albinism should wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen on all exposed areas of the body, including the scalp. Special clothing that increases protection from the sun is also available and includes hats, visors, long-sleeve shirts, and long pants.
Surgery: In severe cases, eye muscle surgery may be done to treat nystagmus (involuntary eye movements) or strabismus (crossed eyes).
Visual aids: Various visual aids can be used to meet the individual needs of people with albinism. These may include large-print books and other reading materials, high-contrast written materials, hand-held monoculars, video enlargement machines, and other types of magnifiers. In addition, children and adults attending school may benefit from a printed copy of the teacher's board notes. People with albinism may also benefit from various specialized computer programs that address their individual needs.
Transplantation: People with Chediak-Higashi syndrome (CHS) may benefit from bone marrow, blood, or platelet transplantation, which can improve bleeding and immune system problems. Transplantation surgeries carry some risk and should be regarded as a viable option only in severe cases.
: Currently there are limited scientific data on the use of integrative therapies for the treatment or prevention of albinism. The therapies listed below have been studied for related conditions such as sunburn and skin cancer. The integrative therapies listed below should be used only under the supervision of a qualified healthcare provider and should not be used in replacement of other proven therapies.
Unclear or conflicting scientific evidence
Chlorella: Early studies suggest a potential effect of chlorella on skin cancer. Avoid with known allergy or hypersensitivity to chlorella, its constituents, or members of the Oocystaceae family. Children have been found to be allergic to chlorella. Chlorella has a high vitamin K content and may decrease the effectiveness of anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as warfarin. Long-term consumption of chlorella may cause manganese-induced parkinsonism. Other adverse effects include photosensitivity, occupational asthma, and fatigue.
Green tea: There is limited animal and human research on green tea as a protective agent from ultraviolet light injury to the skin. Some studies have found conflicting results. Comparisons have not been made with well-established forms of sun protection, such as ultraviolet-protective sunscreen. The effects of green tea on skin damage caused by the sun remain unclear. Avoid if allergic or hypersensitive to caffeine or tannin. Use cautiously with diabetes or liver disease.
Lutein: Numerous laboratory studies have shown the antioxidant effects of lutein. More research is required on the use of lutein for sunburn prevention before a firm conclusion can be made. Avoid if allergic or hypersensitive to lutein or zeaxanthin. Use cautiously if at risk for cardiovascular disease or cancer. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
Lycopene: Lycopene, in combination with other carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, selenium, and proanthocyanidins, may help in reducing sunburn. Selected protective effects from ultraviolet (UV) rays have been observed in small, short-term studies. More research is needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn. Avoid if allergic to tomatoes or to lycopene. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA): PABA is best known for its topical use as a component of sunscreen products. Although PABA and related compounds have frequently been used as topical sunscreen agents, only a few studies in the literature have demonstrated its effectiveness for this specific purpose. Further studies may help to elucidate the protective properties of PABA. Its use as a component of sunscreens has diminished recently, because of reports of frequent allergic reactions and cross-sensitivity with other medications.
Pycnogenol: Pycnogenol® taken by mouth may reduce redness of the skin caused by solar ultraviolet light. Further research is needed before a recommendation can be made. Avoid if allergic or hypersensitive to Pycnogenol®, its components, or members of the Pinaceae family. Use cautiously with diabetes, hypoglycemia, and bleeding disorders. Use cautiously if taking medications that reduce blood cholesterol levels, medications that may increase the risk of bleeding, medications that lower blood pressure, or drugs that affect the immune system. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
Selenium: Protection from UV damage was initially observed in early research using selenium and other antioxidant supplementation, although there is some evidence that selenium does not prevent light-induced skin redness. Avoid if allergic or sensitive to products containing selenium. Avoid with history of nonmelanoma skin cancer. Selenium is generally regarded as safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women. However, animal research reports that large doses of selenium may lead to birth defects.
Vitamin A: It is unclear whether vitamin A or beta-carotene, taken by mouth or used on the skin with sunscreen, is beneficial in the prevention or treatment of skin cancers or wrinkles. Avoid if allergic or hypersensitive to vitamin A. Vitamin A toxicity can occur if taken at high dosages. Use cautiously with liver disease or alcoholism. Smokers who consume alcohol and beta-carotene may be at increased risk for lung cancer or heart disease. Vitamin A appears safe in pregnant women if taken at recommended doses. However, excess or inadequate vitamin A has been associated with birth defects. Excessive doses of vitamin A have been associated with central nervous system problems. Use cautiously if breastfeeding, because the benefits or dangers to nursing infants have not been clearly established.
Fair negative scientific evidence
Selenium: Results from the Nutritional Prevention of Cancer (NPC) trial, conducted among 1,312 Americans over a 13-year period, suggest that selenium supplementation given to individuals at high risk of nonmelanoma skin cancer is ineffective in the prevention of basal cell carcinoma and actually increases the risk of squamous cell carcinoma and total nonmelanoma skin cancer. Therefore, selenium supplementation should be avoided in individuals at risk for or with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer. Avoid if allergic or sensitive to products containing selenium. Avoid with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer. Selenium is generally regarded as safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women. However, animal research reports that large doses of selenium may lead to birth defects.
General: Because albinism is inherited, there is currently no known way to prevent the condition. However, a number of options are available for prospective parents with a family history of albinism.
Genetic testing and counseling: Individuals who have albinism may meet with a genetic counselor to discuss the risks of having children with the disease. Individuals with a family history of albinism may meet with a genetic counselor to determine whether they carry any defective genes. Carriers can be determined through detailed family histories or genetic testing.
Known carriers of genes that cause albinism may undergo genetic counseling before they conceive a child. Genetic counselors can explain the options and the associated risks of various tests, including preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), amniocentesis, and chorionic villus sampling (CVS).
Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) may be used with in vitro fertilization (IVF). In PGD, embryos are tested for the defective genes, and only the embryos that are not affected may be carried to term. Because albinism can be detected in a developing fetus, parents may choose whether to continue the pregnancy. Genetic counselors may assist parents with these difficult decisions.