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Your Child

Laser Pointers and Vision Loss

1:45

Laser pointers were once found primarily in schools, certain industries, entertainment venues and scientific labs. Today they are easily available over the Internet and have garnered the attention of kids and teens that use them as toys. They’ve also become a social media phenomenon as videos of people using them to tease or play with cats rack up likes and shares.

Low powered laser pointers have been considered basically safe for children to play with as long as warnings to avoid pointing the laser at someone’s head or eyes were followed. When operated unsafely, or without certain controls, the highly concentrated light from lasers—even those in toys—can be dangerous, causing serious eye injuries and even blindness. And not just to the person using a laser, but to anyone within range of the laser beam.

Typically, laser light injuries are not painful. Eye injuries may go unnoticed for days and even weeks, but could be permanent.

Some examples of laser toys are:

•       Lasers mounted on toy guns that can be used for "aiming;"

•       Spinning tops that project laser beams while they spin;

•       Hand-held lasers used during play as "light-sabers;" and

•       Lasers intended for entertainment that create optical effects in an open room.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), laser pointers fall into 4 classifications. The classifications categorize lasers according to their ability to produce damage in exposed people, from class 1 (no hazard during normal use) to class 4 (severe hazard for eyes and skin). There are two classification systems, the "old system" used before 2002, and the "revised system" being phased in since 2002.

Researchers recently documented 4 boys who suffered severe eye damage from a laser pointer. The authors report described two 12-year-olds, one nine-year-old and one 16-year-old who came to a medical center with central vision loss and "blind spots" within hours to days after looking into or playing with a green or red laser pointer.

In one case, the boy looked at the reflection of a laser pointer in a mirror. Two others simply pointed the lasers at themselves, and the fourth was engaged in a "laser war" with a friend.

"Long-term outcomes for these patients will be pretty mild vision loss," said senior author Dr. David R. P. Almeida of VitreoRetinal Surgery, PA, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

"Males may horse around with things more, or we just happened to have boys in our series," Almeida told Reuters Health by phone. Injuries could be just as likely for girls.

He advises parents to be careful about where they buy laser pointers, as some retailers may not list the power rating or may list it incorrectly, and to limit use for kids under 14.

Retinal tissue in the back of the eye leads to the brain, and it has no ability to regenerate after tissue loss, Almeida said.

"One patient developed bleeding and needed an injection in the eye," which can be particularly unpleasant for children, he said.

Kids may use laser pointers as long as they avoid improper use, Almeida said.

"Unsupervised use of these laser pointer devices among children should be discouraged, and there is a need for legislation to limit these devices in the pediatric population," he and his coauthors write.

There's no doubt that these products can open up a world of imagination - dragon slayer, cosmic explorer, super pirate, the list goes on. Handled correctly they can provide hours of fun - mishandled, hours in the emergency room. If your child has a laser pointer or toy, make sure he or she knows the rules and understands why being careful about where it is pointed is so important. 

Story sources: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2016/09/06/laser-pointers-can-cause-irreversible-vision-loss-for-kids.html

http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm363908.htm

 

 

Your Child

Preschoolers Should be Examined for Possible Vision Problems

2:00

For very young children, blurry vision may seem normal to them. There’s also a good chance that their parents won’t know their little ones are having difficulty seeing clearly.

That’s why the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is recommending that 3 to 5 year olds receive vision screening at least once to detect abnormal visual development or risk factors for it.

A couple of visions problems that first show symptoms at this age are Strabismuc (crossed eyes) and Amblyopia (lazy eye).)

Crossed eyes do not look in the same direction at the same time. Six muscles attach to each eye to control how it moves. The muscles receive signals from the brain that direct their movements. Normally, the eyes work together so they both point at the same place. When problems develop with eye movement control, an eye may turn in, out, up or down.

Infants and young children often develop this condition by the age of three, but older children and adults can also get crossed eyes. People often believe that a child with strabismus will outgrow the condition. However, this is not true. In fact, strabismus may get worse without treatment. An optometrist should examine any child older than 4 months whose eyes do not appear to be straight all the time.

Lazy eye is the loss or lack of development of central vision in one eye that is unrelated to any eye health problem and is not correctable with lenses.

Lazy eye often occurs in people who have crossed eyes (misalignment) or a large difference in the degree of nearsightedness or farsightedness between the two eyes. It usually develops before age 6 and it does not affect side (peripheral) vision.

Treatment for lazy eye may include a combination of prescription lenses, prisms, vision therapy and eye patching. In vision therapy, patients learn how to use the two eyes together, which helps prevent lazy eye from reoccurring.

According to the American Public Health Association, about 10% of preschoolers have eye or vision problems. However, children this age generally will not voice complaints about their eyes.

Parents should watch for signs that may indicate a vision problem, including:

•       Sitting close to the TV or holding a book too close

•       Squinting

•       Tilting their head

•       Frequently rubbing their eyes

•       Short attention span for the child's age

•       Turning of an eye in or out 

•       Sensitivity to light

•       Difficulty with eye-hand-body coordination when playing ball or bike riding

•       Avoiding coloring activities, puzzles and other detailed activities

If you notice any of these signs in your preschooler, arrange for a visit to your doctor of optometry.

While the two may sound similar, there is a difference between a vision screening and an eye exam.

Vision screenings are a limited process and can't be used to diagnose an eye or vision problem, but rather may indicate a potential need for further evaluation. They may miss as many as 60% of children with vision problems. Even if a vision screening does not identify a possible vision problem, a child may still have one.

Sometimes, parents get a false sense that their child doesn’t have a vision problem if he or she passes a vision screening.

A doctor of optometry performs an eye exam. He or she will look for any developmental problems and evidence of disease. If needed, your doctor of optometry can prescribe treatment, including eyeglasses and/or vision therapy, to correct a vision development problem.

When considering an eye exam, parents should:

•       Make an appointment early in the day. Allow about one hour.

•       Talk about the examination in advance and encourage your child's questions.

•       Explain the examination in terms your child can understand, comparing the E chart to a puzzle and the instruments to tiny flashlights and a kaleidoscope.

The preschool years are a time for developing the visual abilities that a child will need in school and throughout his or her life. Steps taken during these years to help ensure vision is developing normally can provide a child with a good "head start" for school.

Story sources:

http://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/good-vision-throughout-life/childrens-vision/preschool-vision-2-to-5-years-of-age?sso=y

Molly Walker, http://www.medpagetoday.com/ophthalmology/generalophthalmology/63476

 

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