Laser 'toys' can cause ocular damage in children

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Retinal injury following childhood exposure to laser 'toys' is a public safety concern, according to the first case series of such injuries, which has recently been published.

Retinal injury following childhood exposure to laser 'toys' is a public safety concern, according to the first case series of such injuries published in Eye. Consumers and parents should be alerted to the potential dangers of such devices.

Researchers highlighted five paediatric cases. In the first of these a 9-year-old boy presented with painless vision loss, and the presence of acute vitelliform-like maculopathy of the affected eye. These resolved, leaving retinal pigment epithelial changes of the left macula, and upon follow up at 9 months, OCT imaging revealed persistent outer retinal layer disruption at the fovea.

The second case involved an 11-year-old boy who presented with bilateral decreased vision and yellow macular lesions. In this case as well, bilateral vitelliform-like maculopathy was seen on retinal photographs. Such was the case as well in a 15-year-old girl who presented with blurred vision, and an 8-year-old boy, in whom there were retinal pigment epithelial changes of the right fovea that were consistent with laser burns. Finally, a 13-year-old boy presented with a 2-month history of decreased vision in the right eye, and examination revealed a fibrosed choroidal neovascular membrane at the right fovea. All but one admitted to playing with a laser pointer.

The Health Protection Agency advises, "…the sale of laser products to the general public for use as laser pointers should be restricted to Class 1 or Class 2 devices which should be classified in accordance with the requirements of the current British Standard and should be sold with sufficient accompanying information to enable the user to operate the product in a safe manner. Toys should be Class 1 or of such low output that they do not need to be classified."

The authors offered a final caution: "…consumers and parents need to be alerted to the potential danger such so-called laser ‘toys’ pose to vision. We suggest that children should not be given laser pointers as toys."

To access this study, click here.

For further information on the classification of such lasers, go to the Public Health England website here.

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