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Laser pointers can cause eye damage

Stronger restrictions needed on laser pointers, warn authors of study

OnMedica Staff

Wednesday, 09 June 2010

Handheld laser pointers can cause serious eye injuries, warn experts writing in this week's British Medical Journal.

Dr Kimia Ziahosseini and colleagues from the Royal Liverpool University Hospital and Manchester Royal Eye Hospital describe the case of a teenager who presented with central scotomas (dark spots) after he bought a green diode laser pointer over the internet and shone the laser beam into his eyes while playing with it.

His visual acuity was poor and tests revealed burns to the surface of the eye and disturbances to the retina, the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. Two months later, his visual acuity improved but some retinal damage remained.

The authors warn that, although lasers may cause only a transient afterimage, they can lead to permanent retinal damage and visual loss in later years.

The UK Health Protection Agency has received no previous reports of such injury from laser pointers, they write. It advises that laser products sold to the general public for use as laser pointers should be restricted to devices with laser power less than 1 Milliwatt (mW), in accordance with the British Standard, and be accompanied by sufficient information on their safe operation.

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