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UK doctors: Laser pointer damages youth's eyes

A British teenager suffered burns and retinal damage, according to doctors writing in the June 8 2010 British Medical Journal. The youth aimed a “high powered” green diode laser pointer into his own eyes. Both eyes were damaged with 20/35 vision, although six months later vision had returned to 20/20.

The burn site on the youth’s right eye

In their letter to the Journal, the physicians described the potential for harm: “Retinal injuries from lasers can result from ablative, thermal, or photochemical mechanisms depending on power, wavelength, exposure time, and size of pupil. Although they may cause only a transient afterimage, they may disturb the retina and choroid and induce ‘idiopathic’ choroidal neovascularisation with visual loss in later years.”

The letter goes on to state that the UK Health Protection Agency “has received no previous reports of such injury from laser pointers.” However, in a follow-up letter in the June 13 issue, a physician reports being injured by a laser pointer (ironically a gift from a pharmaceutical company). A scotoma appeared four days later, and his vision took months to recover.

From the
British Medical Journal, 8 June 2010.
Follow-up BMJ letter 13 June.
BBC story based on the initial Journal report.