Laser Pointers: Potential for Serious Eye Injuries

A 15-year old boy lost eyesight due to improper use of a laser pointer. In a case report published in the New England Journal of Medicine doctors in Switzerland describe this teenager who ordered a powerful laser pointer through the internet.  He pointed the laser pointer in the mirror to create a laser show.  His vision became increasingly blurry.  Upon visit to the ophthalmologist 2 weeks later his vision in the left eye was so bad he could not even see the big “E” on the eyechart. On examination the patient sustained a retinal hemorrhage or bleeding of the retina and multiple scars in the maculae.  His vision did improve considerably in the next 4 months, however he continued to have permanent scars in the retina.
Dr Ashraf, LASIK surgeon at the Atlanta Vision Institute, comments that, “lasers pointers that are currently sold over the counter in the United States are relatively safe when used properly, however certain lasers obtained over the internet can be as powerful as 700mW.  These lasers have the potential to cause serious eye injuries.”

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