The Executive Director of Restore Foundation for Child Sight (RFCS), Dr Halima Alimi, says there is a need for the eyes of persons with albinism to be given immediate and sustained attention right from infancy.
Alimi spoke in Lagos on the sideline of a three-day comprehensive free eyes testing and treatment for children living with albinism.
Alimi said albinism is as a result of lack of pigmentation (melanin) in the hair, skin and eyes, causing vulnerability to the sun and bright light.
According to her, most people with albinism are visually impaired and are prone to developing skin cancer.
Alimi said that early detection of identified defects would prompt correction with the use of spectacle.
“Persons with albinism have structural differences that guarantee that every single albino eye has visual problem, no exceptions.
“These structural changes guarantee that the vision will not go beyond a certain level. But it gets decidedly worse when they also miss out on spectacle use.
“We can do nothing about the structural differences, but there are some other functional problems that come along with it.
“And so, once we can’t catch them at such a young age, they struggle a lot later in life to get reasonable vision.”
Alimi said that many myths and conceptions surround persons with albinism hence the need for awareness to correct wrong impressions among the public.
“We know that there is a lot of ignorance in the society.
“We need to let every single citizen know that every albino needs attention, and they need attention right from infancy.
“They need to see an eye doctor, a paediatric ophthalmologist or otherwise. It is very important.
“This is so because the earlier we can get them, the more reasonable their visual will be going forward.
“We believe they can get them enough vision to have regular education like everybody else, so they can perform optimally.
“They have a lot to contribute. They have absolutely normal intelligence. There is nothing wrong with them at all, mentally, physically, so they can contribute to family, society and the nation at large.”
On the outreach, Alimi said the foundation was collaborating with the Lagos Albino Awareness Society, to announce in their networks to screen children living with albinism from three months to 16 years.
She said that no fewer than 100 prescriptions were taken during the outreach and special glasses (photochromic) made for the patients.
A photochromic lens is an optical lens that darkens on exposure to light of sufficiently high frequency, most commonly ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
Explaining, Alimi said that “part of what happens is that persons with albinism have no melanin, hence they are unable to tolerate lights.
“So part of what melanin does is to absorb excessive lights.
“That’s why a person without albinism can walk under bright sun and not have to close the eyes and persons with albinism cannot function at all under the sun.
“To shade their eyes, they need special lenses (photochromic) that change colour depending on whether it’s sunny or not.
“What we do apart from giving them spectacles during this programme is to send the right narrative forward.’’
Speaking on behalf of the Lagos Albinism Awareness Society, the Public Relations Officer, Mr Onasanya Mojeed, advised parents to ensure the eyes of their children were regularly checked, from three months.
He commended the foundation for the outreach.
A parent, Mrs Angele Onu, thanked the RFCS for the gesture and urged members of the public to be patient and empathetic toward persons with albinism.