Laptop Computers and Toasted Skin Syndrome

Merely Me Health Guide
  • As I am writing this article I have my trusty laptop computer perched on my lap. That is why they call it a laptop right? Well turns out that this might not be so safe for my skin or anyone else who keeps their laptop on their lap for extended periods of time. In a recent case report published in the October issue of the journal, Pediatric, a 12-year-old boy developed a skin condition called erythema ab igne, otherwise known as toasted skin syndrome on his left thigh. This sponge patterned rash on the boy’s leg was found to be caused by his prolonged use of his laptop computer to play computer games several hours every day for several months.

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    Toasted skin syndrome usually results from a work injury where a worker experiences prolonged exposure to a heat or infrared source. Typical occupations in which this might happen include bakers, boiler operators or glass blowers. There have been other cases where heating pad use or prolonged exposure to a car heater has been known to result in this skin condition. In the case of laptop computers the heat comes from the optical drive, the battery, or the ventilation fan.


    Most computer manufacturers provide warnings in their user manuals not to place the laptop on your lap or exposed skin for prolonged periods of time to prevent burns. It seems that many laptop users do not read or follow these instructions.


    Toasted skin syndrome is described as harmless by some but the skin darkening and discoloration can be permanent. Some experts say that there may be some risk that carcinoma can develop from the site of hyperpigmentation. It is possible for squamous cell skin cancer or Merkel cell carcinoma to develop from within erythema ab igne. Some doctors advise that patients with toasted skin syndrome be checked at regular intervals for any precancerous or cancerous lesions.


    Some news sources report that there have been only ten cases of toasted skin syndrome caused by laptops published in medical journals in the past six years. One other documented case was of a Virginia law student who developed a net like rash on her leg after spending six hours a day with her laptop on her lap.


    Of course the risk of developing toasted skin syndrome is easy to avoid. One solution is to work at a desk. The other is to place your laptop on a thermal insulating board. One such product I have heard about is called the Lapinator  which is said to block 95% of laptop heat.


    What are your thoughts? Do you use a laptop for long periods of time on your lap? Have you suffered from any skin problems as a result? Tell us your experience. We would love to hear from you.

Published On: October 26, 2010