Technology May Cause Skin Damage

Sure, they’re called laptops, but you could really pay a price for keeping that warm laptop on your lap for prolonged periods of time. Looks like gaming, studying, and reading online will lead to “toasted skin syndrome”, a Pediatrics case study reports.

The “syndrome” consists of a brownish discoloration of the skin caused by prolonged exposure to heat from the computer.

Researchers from Switzerland, reporting in the Nov. 5 issue of Pediatrics, focus on the case of a 12-year-old boy who developed a sponge-patterned discoloration on his left thigh after playing computer games with his laptop resting on his upper legs a few hours per day for several months.

“He recognized that the laptop got hot on the left side,” the researchers write. “However, regardless of that, he did not change its position.”

Time to rethink laptops on the lap.

The boy had what is known as erythema ab igne – a temporary discoloration of the skin after extended exposure to a heat or infrared source such as a heating pad. This type of skin condition, known as dermatosis, has been found in people who worked in front of open fires or coal stoves, used hot pads and blankets extensively or sat too closely to steam radiators or space heaters.

Prior to this case, nine other patients had been reported with laptop-induced dermatosis since 2004. This most recent case described in Pediatrics is the youngest of the 10 documented cases.

Dr. Andreas W. Arnold, the lead author of the study and a dermatologist says, “If you perform a biopsy, you see the epidermis changes… It has to be in the upper dermis too.  We don’t know the exact mechanism, but it probably has to do with blood vessel or inflammation.”

Arnold also notes that people who get this skin discoloration usually don’t have any symptoms — although a few have reported itchiness or tingles. The discoloration takes months or even years to fade – it largely depends on the individual, he adds.

Considering that a laptop computer could heat up to 111 degrees Fahrenheit (ouch!), it’s time to use one’s intuitiveness, the doctors behind the study say. Meaning that once we begin to feel our laptops get a bit too warm on our skin — just, easy, “Put a pillow beneath the lap, legs or the computer back,” he said.

As younger and younger kids begin to foray into technology, it may also be time for tech companies to take initiative and carry a warning label alerting consumers about possible skin problems the devices can cause. Just a thought…

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