Hobart optometrist Ben Armitage received a call on Monday from a GP asking him to investigate why the 14-year-old boy was having vision problems.
“He came into see me and on the Friday night he’d got hold of a laser pen and unfortunately, shined it in his eyes for a very brief period of time,” he said.
“Unfortunately he’s managed to cause himself permanent damage to the back of his eye.”
Photographs of the boy’s eyes show laser burns to his each of his retinas.
“The back of his eyes on both sides are showing laser burns, so he’s actually managed to burn the retina at the back of the eye near an area called the macular,” Mr Armitage said.
“Unfortunately that’s the area where your detailed central vision takes place and therefore it’s had somewhat of an exaggerated effect on how much sight he’s lost.”
The boy said he did not feel any pain at the time, but the impact on his vision would have been almost immediate.
“His vision is down to about 25 percent of what we call 20/20 vision and unfortunately at this stage it’s unlikely that that vision is going to recover,” Mr Armitage said.
There may be some slight improvement once swelling reduces.
“The laser burns are basically areas where he’s not going to be able to see ever again,” Mr Armitage added.
“We’re hoping that as the swelling goes down the size of those burns goes down as well and can help restore some vision.”
Damage can not be corrected with glasses
“The way I’d describe it is if you imagine a camera, it’s the sensor or in old school terms the film at the back of the camera that’s been damaged,” Mr Armitage said.
“It doesn’t matter how good a lens you put on the front of the camera it’s never going to overcome damage to the film or the sensor at the back.
“So you’re also going to have an area of vision, and unfortunately his area of vision is central, that is going to be essentially missing.
“The way the eye works is that the majority of your usable vision is central, including all for example your colour vision, takes place in a very very small area.”
In the lead up to Christmas, Optometry Tasmania has warned parents not to view laser pointers or pens as toys.
Chief executive Geoff Squibb said the boy’s example showed the level of damage that could occur in a brief moment.
“I think we’ve got to realise that the consequence of the high intensity of these lasers can have such serious effect on a person’s vision,” he said.
“If parents purchase or allow their children to have access to these pens they ought to supervise them very, very carefully and, in fact, better off trying to warn them off them because we’ve just seen in this particular case where the future lifestyle of this young person has been seriously affected.”