Laser pointers revisited: a survey of 14 patients attending casualty at the Bristol Eye Hospital

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AimsThe largest clinical series of laser pointer exposures to date is described, to document any long term visual sequelae and assess objectively the visual threat from transient ocular exposure.Methods14 cases were collected prospectively and triaged by ophthalmic nurses before referral to an ophthalmologist for a complete ophthalmic examination. Regardless of the need for clinical follow up, all patients were contacted by telephone at a mean interval of 10.5 months following exposure to inquire about new or persisting symptoms.Results11/14 cases presented within 24 hours of exposure and 5/14 incidents were reported to the police. Reduced acuity in the affected eye compared with the contralateral were documented in 5/14 cases. The commonest physical sign was a punctate epitheliopathy, seen in 5/14 cases, and the commonest symptom was ocular discomfort, reported by 11/14 patients. There were no consistent retinal findings. Follow up by telephone survey revealed that two patients were wearing new glasses, but had not been refracted before the exposure; one had intermittent ocular discomfort; the remaining 11 were asymptomatic.ConclusionsThis study is reassuring to the ophthalmology community and the general public in failing to demonstrate consistent, long term damaging effects of transient ocular exposure to laser pointer beams.

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