A 9-year-old boy has suffered permanent damage to his retina after repeatedly looking into a laser pointer’s green beam.
The child underwent an eye exam which revealed a hole in his macula. The macula is the part of the retina that helps with discerning detail in faces while reading or driving. After examining his eye further, doctors also spotted two areas that were injured below the macular hole.
Usually, this condition is treated with surgery. However, since the boy’s macular hole was caused by a laser burn, the nerves in his eye that absorb light were permanently damaged.
This means that even if the surgery is done successfully, the boy would not be able to see. The boy’s vision was measured 20/20 in his right eye, but 20/100 in his left.
The doctor attending to the child said that he might have injured his eye eighteen months prior to having it checked as children may be reluctant to report eye injuries. But even during the onset of the laser pointer incident, the damage could not be reversed.
“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, director of the Vision Center at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, who was not involved with the care of this patient. “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 patient’s father reportedly bought the laser from a street merchant in Greece and gave it to the child as a toy.
Lasers which emit a green-blue light are more dangerous that their red-orange counterparts.
Though awareness about the dangers of using lasers has increased over the years, experts advise parents that lasers should never be given to children as toys.