Occupational Hazard: What Is ‘Toasted Skin Syndrome’?

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“Toasted skin syndrome” does not refer to the healthy glow earned by lying on a tranquil beach (slathered responsibly with SPF 50, of course). Really, it’s more like a work injury. 

Previously the purview of bakers, glass blowers and other artisans who spent the bulk of their days in front of a concentrated heat source, school children and office workers alike are now being diagnosed with the condition because of long-term exposure to heat generated by the laptop computers atop their laps. Wrote the AP:

In one recent case, a 12-year-old boy developed a sponge-patterned skin discoloration on his left thigh after playing computer games a few hours every day for several months.

“He recognized that the laptop got hot on the left side; however, regardless of that, he did not change its position,” Swiss researchers reported in an article published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Another case involved a Virginia law student who sought treatment for the mottled discoloration on her leg.

Dr. Kimberley Salkey, who treated the young woman, was stumped until she learned the student spent about six hours a day working with her computer propped on her lap. The temperature underneath registered 125 degrees.

The leg discoloration can be permanent and is thought to be generally harmless, though one dermatology professor reported that “toasted” skin cells looked like those with long-term sun damage. Theoretically, long-term skin inflammation can increase the risk of some skin cancers, but chances are most laptop users will be fine. Besides, this is an easy problem to avoid: work at a desk!

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