A 9-year-old boy from Greece found out exactly what happens when you shine a laser pointer into your eye – and it may have left him with permanent damage to his sight.
According to a case report published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the boy’s parents brought him to an ophthalmology clinic to find out what was going on after he seemed to be losing vision in his left eye.
While his right eye had 20/20 vision, his left eye had decreased to just 20/100, meaning that he had to be 20 feet away to see what a normal person can see at 100 feet.
For reference, vision of 20/200 is considered legally blind in Canada.
Doctors discovered a “macular hole” in the boy’s left eye – meaning there was a break in the central part of his retina, where the eye’s light-sensitive tissue is located. According to the U.S. National Eye Institute, a macular hole can cause blurred and distorted vision, and usually occurs in people over the age of 60.
In the boy’s case, it was a laser pointer that caused the damage. “The child reported playing with a green laser pointer and repeatedly gazing into the laser beam,” reads the case report.
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Although many national health agencies, including Canada, restrict the sale of powerful laser pointers, these devices are still accessible online, write the authors.
Macular holes are often treated surgically, with surgeons essentially blowing an air bubble in the patient’s eye that acts as a temporary bandage, holding the edges of the hole in place so it can heal, according to the NEI. The patient has to remain face-down for days, sometimes weeks, following the surgery to ensure that the hole is sealed.
Because of the large diameter of the boy’s macular hole, the ophthalmologists opted not to do surgery and instead just monitor his vision. There hasn’t been any change in 18 months.
Health Canada advises against letting children play with lasers, or “playing around” with them yourself, as they can cause flash blindness and permanent eye damage.
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