Laser eye injuries

Y Barkana, M Belkin
Survey of Ophthalmology 2000, 44 (6): 459-78
Laser instruments are used in many spheres of human activity, including medicine, industry, laboratory research, entertainment, and, notably, the military. This widespread use of lasers has resulted in many accidental injuries. Injuries are almost always retinal, because of the concentration of visible and near-infrared radiation on the retina. The retina is therefore the body tissue most vulnerable to laser radiation. The nature and severity of this type of retinal injury is determined by multiple laser-related and eye-related factors, the most important being the duration and amount of energy delivered and the retinal location of the lesion. The clinical course of significant retinal laser injuries is characterized by sudden loss of vision, often followed by marked improvement over a few weeks, and occasionally severe late complications. Medical and surgical treatment is limited. Laser devices hazardous to the human eye are currently in widespread use by armed forces. Furthermore, lasers may be employed specifically for visual incapacitation on future battlefields. Adherence to safety practices effectively prevents accidental laser-induced ocular injuries. However, there is no practical way to prevent injuries that are maliciously inflicted, as expected from laser weapons.

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