Difference Between Albinism and Vitiligo 

Albinism and Vitiligo are both medical conditions caused due to a defect of pigments in the body, but there is a difference between these two disorders. The key difference between these conditions is that, Albinism is a congenital disorder characterized by the complete or partial absence of melanin which is the pigment found in the skin, hair, and eyes while vitiligo is a skin condition characterized by a part of the skin losing the pigment.

What is Albinism?

Albinism results from inheritance of recessive gene alleles, and it is commonly an autosomal recessive disorder. In some cases, X-linked inheritance is also involved. Lack of pigment can range from complete absence to minor deficiency based on the underlying genetic defect. There are two principal types of albinism,

  • Oculocutaneous Albinism: Affecting the eyes, skin and hair
  • Ocular Albinism: Affecting only the eyes

People with albinism lack the pigment melanin which protects the skin from ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Hence, their skin can be damaged more easily. They face increased risk of skin carcinoma due to the same reason. Albinism is also associated with a range of visual defects including photophobia (difficulty in looking at a light source), nystagmus (back and forth movements of the eyeball), and amblyopia (blurred vision).

Treatment for the eyes consists of visual rehabilitation. Surgery on the extra-ocular muscles is useful to reduce strabismus. Nystagmus can also be controlled to some extent by surgery. However, these procedure are used after assessing individual cases separately. Their success varies greatly among affected individuals. There is no known cure for albinism, as it is not considered as a disease. However, it is important to prevent sunburns and have regular skin checkups by a dermatologist as they face increased risk of skin cancer.

What is Vitiligo?

Apart from cases of contact with toxic chemicals, the cause of vitiligo remains largely unknown. However, some researchers suggest vitiligo can occur due to autoimmune, genetic, oxidative stress, as well as from viral infections. Vitiligo is classified into two basic categories:

Segmental Vitiligo: This tends to occur in areas of skin close to the dorsal nerve roots of the spinal cord and is usually unilateral.

Non-segmental Vitiligo: Some form of symmetry can be observed in the location of de- pigmented patched of skin. New patches can appear over time and can be generalized or localized to a part of the body.

Autoimmune diseases including Addison’s disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, etc. occur more commonly in association with vitiligo explain the possible autoimmune origin. Though there is no cure for vitiligo, various treatment options can be tried. Some of them include steroid applications and the combination of ultraviolet light with various creams.

What is the difference between Albinism and Vitiligo?

Definition of Albinism and Vitiligo

Albinism: Albinism is a congenital disorder characterized by the complete or partial absence of melanin.

Vitiligo: Vitiligo is a skin condition characterized by a part of the skin losing the pigment.

Characteristics of Albinism and Vitiligo


Albinism: Albinism is a genetic disorder.

Vitiligo: Vitiligo is an acquired condition in most cases.

Eye Involvement

Albinism: Albinism affects eyes

Vitiligo: Vitiligo does not affect eyes

Extent of the Condition

Albinism: Albinism affects whole body

Vitiligo: Vitiligo affects only the part of the body

Associated Diseases

Albinism: Albinism is not associated with autoimmune disease.

Vitiligo: Vitiligo is associated with autoimmune disease.


 Image Courtesy:

“Albinisitic man portrait” by The original uploader was Muntuwandi at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.. (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

“Vitiligo1” by James Heilman, MD – Own work.(CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons