Laser pointer maculopathy - on the rise?

Acta Ophthalmol. 2018 Nov;96(7):749-754. doi: 10.1111/aos.13856. Epub 2018 Oct 2.


Purpose: To report symptoms and ocular pathology in 13 patients exposed to light from laser pointers.

Methods: We conducted a multi-centre consecutive case series from eight ophthalmology departments.

Results: Eleven boys aged 9-15 years and two girls aged 7 (sister of one of the aforementioned boys) and 12 years, respectively, were included. Laser wavelengths were 572 nm (green), 450 nm (blue), and red laser of unknown wavelength. Output powers were between 5 and 5000 mW. Evaluation included slit lamp examination, colour fundus photography (CFP), and optical coherence tomography (OCT). All subjects complained of unilateral vision loss. Initial visual acuities in exposed eyes ranged from 0.05 to 1.0 Snellen equivalent or better. Nine subjects showed pathology on CFP and OCT abnormalities. One subject had a macular hole, which closed after vitrectomy. Long-term visual acuity ranged from 0.3 to 1.0 Snellen equivalent or better.

Conclusion: High-powered laser pointers have become readily available on the internet, and they have the potential to induce lasting visual loss. More than half of the published laser pointer maculopathy cases since the first incidence in 1999 have been published in 2014-2017. We suspect that incidence of exposure and subsequent visual loss is rising, and we encourage national legislators to regulate this market.

Keywords: laser maculopathy; laser pointer; laser pointer output power; paediatric vision loss.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Eye Injuries / diagnosis
  • Eye Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Eye Injuries / physiopathology
  • Eye Injuries / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lasers / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Retina / injuries*
  • Retinal Diseases / diagnosis
  • Retinal Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Retinal Diseases / physiopathology
  • Retinal Diseases / surgery
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence
  • Vision Disorders / diagnosis
  • Vision Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Vision Disorders / physiopathology
  • Vision Disorders / surgery
  • Visual Acuity / physiology
  • Vitrectomy