An article published in the September 8 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine titled "Retinal Injuries from a Handheld Laser Pointer" discusses the case of a 15-year-old boy who purchased a high-powered handheld laser pointer on the Internet and the severe eye damage he suffered as a result of playing with this device in front of a mirror.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), handheld lasers powered at 5 milliwatts (mW) are standard for certain types of lasers and laser projectors. However, lasers powered any higher than that are illegal. In the case of the 15-year-old boy, the laser was powered at 150 (mW), well beyond the legal limit. These illegal products are often advertised as "toys" and it is very difficult to distinguish the harmless laser pointers from hazardous ones.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (Academy) cautions consumers about the dangers of these high-powered, illegal devices and alerts parents to the harm they can cause.
Laser pointers of any kind should not be pointed anywhere near the eye or near reflective surfaces where the light can be re-directed. Eye damage and vision loss can occur when appropriate care is not taken in handling these devices.
If you or your child experiences pain, burning, redness, tearing or sensitivity to light after using a handheld laser pointer, see your ophthalmologist, an Eye M.D.
Media: Spokespeople are available to comment.
About the American Academy of Ophthalmology
The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons—Eye M.D.s—with more than 29,000 members worldwide. Eye health care is provided by the three "O's" – opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists. It is the ophthalmologist, or Eye M.D., who can treat it all: eye diseases and injuries, and perform eye surgery. To find an Eye M.D. in your area, visit the Academy's Web site at www.aao.org.