Eye Health

Updated 12 March 2018

11-year-old boy goes blind from laser light

An eye specialist has warned against that dangers of children playing with laser lights as toys after at least two boys suffered permanent eye damage.

Laser lights are typically used in the workplace and universities during presentations but it is now cause for serious concern as children are using it as toys.

Health24’s resident doctor Dr Owen Wiese has warned that laser lights with a high power output can lead to permanent eye damage.

This after at least two boys were reported to have suffered damage from the red beams

The safety of laser lights

"These lasers as available everywhere and it’s doubtful if the lasers have been classified as safe," said Dr Owen Wiese.

Although most pocket lasers have a low power output, Wiese added that one cannot be sure. "Lasers with a high power output can certainly cause permanent damage."

Eye specialist Dr. Joanne Miller told Netwerk24 that the red beams are causing severe damage to children, adding that it has reached "epidemic" proportions.

This after an 11-year-old boy's eye was left permanently damaged after looking into the light after one of his class mates was playing with it.

Damage to the retina

His distraught mother told the Afrikaans news website that the light penetrated the eye and permanently affected his retina. "He now has a blind spot right in front of him, but still see the sides of the eye," she was quoted as saying.

Miller is calling for laser lights to be forbidden from schools, adding that some schools are even selling it.

"People are not at all aware of the damage it can cause."

She said that she also recently treated a child who suffered permanent damage to his eye when he played with a laser light and shone it into his eye.

How to safely use lasers

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US have urged that the pointers be used as intended. It also listed some considerations when using laser pointers:

1) Never look directly into the laser beam.
2) Never point a laser beam at a person.
3) Do not aim the laser at reflective surfaces.
4) Never view a laser pointer using an optical instrument, such as binocular or a microscope.
5) Do not allow children to use laser pointers unless under the supervision of an adult.

* Visit Netwerk24 for more news in Afrikaans.

Also read:

Eyecare myths you probably believed

Glaucoma: a silent but devastating eye condition

Protect your eyes from harmful UV rays


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Megan Goodman qualified as an optometrist from the University of Johannesburg. 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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