Eye experts warn that though laser pointers may look harmless, when children are allowed to play with them they could end up causing damage to their own eyes or that of other kids. These damages could range from blurry vision to blind spots or potentially permanent vision loss. Part of the problem is unreliable labeling and unregulated sales of laser pointers, which are readily available in many office supply stores. Research shows that a significant percentage of both red and green laser pointers are labeled as having between 1 and 5 milliwatts of power outputs. That amount is supposedly safe to the eyes. But, most devices tested for a research study found they had power outputs greater than 5 milliwatts.
Location is everything when it comes to damage to the retina from lasers. If the laser hits you at an angle, you may notice nothing and be totally asymptomatic. But if it hits your central vision, you may have dramatic loss of vision immediately that never recovers. Treatment options for retinal damage resulting from laser pointers are scarce. In some cases surgery may be required for complications stemming from the injury, but most cases can only be monitored through observation.
Some ophthalmologists may prescribe corticosteroids to patients to reduce inflammation inside the eye, but this option is controversial due to lack of research in humans. Researchers are urging adults such as health professionals, teachers and parents to educate children about the dangers of laser pointers and to discourage or limit their use. Children should be told not to point them in their eye or into others' eyes, as once the injury occurs, there is very little that can be done to rectify it.