Handheld laser pointers – a danger to your eyes?

Posted Jan 22 2016  |  by DOC



As kids we used them to disturb a class presentation, tease our pets, or reenact Star Wars, but little did we know, these handheld tools have the capacity to cause significant eye damage.

A recent rise in patients with severe eye injuries (including retinal burns, blurry vision, even blindness) have been popping up all over the world – due to a tiny handheld tool, the laser pointer. Many don’t recognize the seriousness in playing with these devices, largely due to lack of knowledge when it comes to the power they emit.  Laser pointers outputting more than five milliwatts of power seriously increases your risk for eye damage when the laser comes in direct contact with your eye.

Through ease of ordering these ‘toys’ online, the risk is being put into the hands of many children. Products may be lacking labelling or testing to determine the output – which can put many at risk for exposure to the powerful beam.

Improper use of these tools have affected pilots, vehicle operators and the public by impairing their vision. The eye only needs to be exposed to a five milliwatt laser before the natural protective mechanisms of the eye, such as blinking, are helpless.

To avoid damage to yourself and others, follow these guidelines:

  • Never direct your laser pointer or aim it in someone’s direction
  • Keep laser pointers out of reach of children
  • Prior to purchase, ensure the product is properly labelled (the label should include the manufacturers name and date of manufacture, a warning of exposure to laser radiation, a class designation)

If you’re ever exposed to a laser pointer and begin experiencing eye irritation, visit your doctor of optometry immediately.

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