A laser pointer burned a hole in a 9-year-old boy’s retina, according to reports.
The Greek boy permanently injured his left eye when he repeatedly looked into the pointer’s green beam, CNN reported. During an examination, a large hole was seen in the macula, an area in the retina that helps to see detail, including seeing faces and reading.
The case was detailed Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The 9-year-old’s parents brought the child, who was not named, to the eye doctor because he suffered vision problems in his left eye. It happened after the boy “reported playing with a green laser pointer and repeatedly gazing into the laser beam,” the report stated, according to LiveScience.
The child was reported to have 20/100 vision in his left eye, compared to the 20/20 vision in his right eye, Fox News reported. “Because of the large diameter of the macular hole and the accompanying atrophy in this patient, we favored conservative management rather than surgery,” the doctors said. “The patient’s vision has remained unchanged during 18 months of follow-up.”
“When you have something as powerful like a laser, it’s so powerful that it is converted to heat like a burn,” said Dr. Thomas C. Lee, who is the chief of the Vision Center at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, CNN reported. “That can leave scar tissue behind and can cause bleeding. The patient can actually get a blind spot right in the middle of the eye. … It’s like a magnifying glass burning a piece of paper. It’s the same thing.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration restricts the sale of laser pointers that have more than 5 milliwatts of power. Pointers with more power than that are easy to buy online, however.
“Typically, they’re less than 5 milliwatts, and those are relatively less harmful, but they’re often mislabeled. The power output, rather than being 5 milliwatts, can be 10, 50 or even higher,” Dr. Peter Gehlbach, who is the head of the Wilmer Echography Center and professor of ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute, told CNN. “And these are particularly dangerous powers, and there’s no way for you to know as a user that this laser pointer that you got off the internet has the right power.”
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