You’ll hear a lot of cautionary tales that you can blind someone with a laser pointer if you point it at their eyes. You’ll also hear people say this is just an urban myth. Which is true? Read on as we discuss this issue.
The short answer is, yes, laser pointers can hurt your eyes. But why? Normally, light disperses in many directions when it is generated. Unlike normal lights, laser light is focused in one direction from its source, which makes it more concentrated.
While the FDA regulates the power of many laser pointers, many unregulated ones are still sold, and they can generate higher power levels.
Even though you normally blink when a bright light shines in your eyes, there is still a chance of the light getting into your eye.
Serious problems can occur if the retina is damaged. Laser pointers can put out anywhere between 1 and 5 milliwatts of power, which is enough to damage the retina after 10 seconds of exposure. This can lead to permanent vision loss. That said, it can be very difficult to expose the retina to that much light for that long a time.
However, unregulated laser pointers can be of much stronger power, which means the eye would need to be exposed to the light for much less than 10 seconds to experience permanent damage.
Common retina damage symptoms that could stem from having a laser pointer pointed in the eye may include:
A person can also experience flash blindness, in which the light from a laser pointer overwhelms a person’s eyes, causing temporary blindness. People experience this when the flash on a camera goes off, for example. While people do regain their vision after a short time, it can still be dangerous if they are driving a car or flying a plane. This effect can be worse at night, because a person’s pupils are open wider to receive more light.
While the chances of hurting your eyes with a laser pointer are not high, you should still exercise caution. And if you do think you may have damaged your eyes with one, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment here at CEENTA.
This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your physician. To make an appointment with any of CEENTA’s eye doctors, call 704-295-3000. You can also schedule an appointment online or through myCEENTAchart.
CEENTA facial plastic surgeon Neela Rao, MD, appeared on WSOC's The Daily Two on September 7th, 2023 to discuss her upcoming After Hours Aesthetic Event.
Learn more about CEENTA retina specialist Omar Punjabi, MD in Eye to Eye.
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