What Happens When You Shine A Laser Pointer In Your Eye

Our eyes are made up of sensitive layers all of which play an important role in our vision. When it comes to light, the retina is the key player. When light hits our eyeball, it activates the cone and rod cells within our retina which then triggers an exchange between the eye and the brain to interpret the incoming light into what we see in front of us (via Live Science).

Because our eyes have the keen ability to pick up on light, we must be careful not to damage these sensitive cells when dealing with bright light sources. Laser pointers, popular toys used to entertain our furry feline friends, are light sources that pose a risk to our eyesight. According to doctors at Patty Vision Centers, should you shine a laser pointer into your eye, the most common effect you'll experience is "flash blindness," or a momentary loss of vision from disorientation. If only for a few seconds, you're not likely to experience any long-term effects from the light. However, should you direct the laser into your eye for a sustained period of time, this can lead to more severe outcomes.

Laser pointers can damage our retina and lead to temporary or permanent blindness

It's when our retina becomes damaged that we have cause for concern. Experts at Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates explain, "Laser pointers can put out anywhere between 1 and 5 milliwatts of power, which is enough to damage the retina after 10 seconds of exposure. This can lead to permanent vision loss." While most toy lasers are safely regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), some unregulated lasers emit more powerful levels of light and can cause irreparable harm in under ten seconds. CEENTA Ophthalmologist and retina specialist Andrew Antoszyk, M.D., advises, "Parents should not buy laser pointers for their children that are above class 1 and should follow FDA guidelines for assessing safety of laser pointers."

Because our eyes are so complex, the good news is that significant eye damage from laser pointers is rare. This is due to the fact that our eyes are almost always in motion and therefore it would be difficult for that tiny red light to hit the same spot in our eye for a whole ten seconds (via Patty Vision Centers). Should you have any concerns about potential damage caused by a laser pointer or any other source, consider consulting your local physician or optometrist for further assessment and treatment.