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Eye and Vision Care

Eye Risk of Laser Hair Removal

10/28/2010

Question:

I am really hoping to get some responses regarding potential eye damage when being treated with the Palomar Starlux laser for hair removal. I will try to keep this short.

Today I was being treated with this Laser and was wearing goggles to protect my eye. The opthamologist assisted was lasering an area on my stomach. She asked me a question about what area I wanted to have treated. I couldn`t see well through the goggles so I took them off to point to the area thinking that she was through zapping me. Well, right as I looked down at the handpiece she zapped my stomach. I DID NOT HAVE MY EYE PROTECTION ON. I could see a bunch of red light get emitted. Now the laser was not pointed at my eyes but rather was pointed at my stomach. Still I could see the bright red light come out all around the point of the hand piece.

I am absolutely freaking out now worried that I may have done permanent damage to my eyes. Could someone please tell me if I might have indeed done significant and/or permanent damage to my eyes from this? This has happened a handful of times over the years but this is the first time that I was looking directly at the hand piece while it was being zapped (although the point was aimed at my stomach not my eyes).

Also over the years I have been treated in my beard area and in between the eyebrows. I always wore goggles but still would see incredibly bright flashes as the laser went off.

Could someone please tell me if I should be concerned? I don`t think that I notice any difference in my vision now but am worried that somehow I may have gotten damage that I will not notice until later.

Answer:

It is not likely that any damage was done. Here is why:

Lasers can cause damage to the structures of the eyes if aimed directly in the eye. Reflected laser's can damage the eyes also IF the reflection is from a specular surface such as a mirror. The diffuse energy reflected off of your stomach (as well as the diffuse energy that is emitted around the hand piece) is unlikely to cause damage, especially for the short duration of exposure that you describe. However, in the future, it would be wise to not remove the goggles until you have been informed that the procedure is over.

If you are still concerned, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor to confirm that no damage was done.

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Response by:

Andrew J Toole, OD, PhD, FAAO
Clinical Assistant Professor of Optometry
College of Optometry
The Ohio State University