Boy burns a hole in his eye with a laser pointer

The hole - the dark patch in the middle - was inoperable.
The hole - the dark patch in the middle - was inoperable. Photo credit: New England Journal of Medicine

A young boy has permanently damaged his vision after burning a hole in his retina with a laser pointer.

The nine-year-old Greek boy was taken to the optometrist complaining of poor vision in his left eye, according to a case report in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Tests showed while he had 20/20 vision in his right eye, his left only had 20/100 - meaning that in that eye, he needs to be five times closer to see things clearly than a person with 20/20 vision.

Closer examination found a "large macular hole" in his retina.

"The child reported playing with a green laser pointer and repeatedly gazing into the laser beam," the report said.

The damage was so bad, doctors decided against even trying to operate, opting instead to manage the injury. After 18 months, the boy's vision had shown no sign of improvement.

laser pointer eye
The scan on the right shows two other areas of injury. Photo credit: New England Journal of Medicine

Laser pointers' strength is restricted in most countries, but it is possible to buy stronger pointers online. It's not known how powerful the boy's pointer was.

In New Zealand, the strongest that can be bought and sold without special authorisation is 1 milliwatt.

In 2017, there were more than 150 incidents of people pointing lasers at aeroplanes - a crime punishable by up to three years in prison.