Eye Health

22 November 2013

Laser toys can damage eyes

A report warns that popular laser toys can cause serious and potentially permanent eye damage.

Popular laser toys can cause serious and potentially permanent eye damage, a new report warns.

The high-powered blue laser gadgets, sold over the Internet, are increasingly sought after by male teens and young adults, according to the researchers.

The study authors report on 14 cases of laser-caused eye damage treated at Saudi Arabia's King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital between 2012 and 2013. The injuries were caused by high-power blue laser gadgets and included four cases of perforations of the retina, the part of the eye responsible for detailed central vision.

"We fear our experience may mark the beginning of an alarming trend and may portend a growing number of young people suffering serious eye damage as these high-power lasers become more ubiquitous," Dr J Fernando Arevalo, chief of the hospital's retina division and professor of ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute, said in a Hopkins news release.

The toys resemble light sabers from "Star Wars" and are most often used for play, but also to light cigarettes and set plastic or paper on fire from a distance.

Permanent damage to retina

The patients were males aged 11 to 30, and all of them suffered sudden vision loss in one eye. Ten required surgery or other treatment. While most of the injuries were reversed with treatment, two patients suffered permanent damage to the retina.

All patients recovered some or most of their vision over the course of a few weeks or months, according to the study, published online in the journal Ophthalmology.

All of the patients sought treatment immediately, which may explain their successful recovery, the researchers noted.

Sixteen more patients have been seen and treated at the hospital for laser-caused injuries since the study was written, the researchers said.

More information

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission has more about toy safety.

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Megan Goodman qualified as an optometrist from the University of Johannesburg and is currently practising at Tygerberg Academic Hospital in Cape Town. She has recently completed a Masters degree in Clinical Epidemiology at Stellenbosch University. She has a keen interest in ocular pathology and evidence based medicine as well as contact lenses.

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