Are you a blogger, gamer or incorrigible computer addict? If you're working on a laptop, it could be slowly burning your legs with the heat coming off its bottom, resulting in a mottled inflammation similar to the effects of long-term sun exposure.
In an article recently published in Pediatrics, Dr. Andreas Arnold and Dr. Peter Itin of University Hospital Basel in Switzerland reviewed ten cases of laptop-induced erythema ab igne, which has otherwise been known as "toasted skin syndrome" since the first reported case appeared in medical literature in 2006. The most recent case involved a 12-year-old boy, who played video games on his laptop for a few hours each day over the course of several months; even though he realized that the laptop was hot, he didn't change his position. In another case, a law student's laptop reached up to 125 degrees Fahrenheit, and caused the "toasted skin" discoloration on her legs.
Erythema ab igne is caused by long-term exposure to infrared radiation in the form of heat. According to the researchers, laptop optical drives, batteries or ventilation fans can emit enough heat over a long period of time to cause the mottled discoloration. While not immediately dangerous, the discoloration can persist for months or years; in rare cases it can lead to skin cancer, claim the researchers.
Also known as "fire stains," erythema ab igne used to be found in people who sat too close to open fires or electric heaters. It's still found in people who have to work in close proximity to heat for long periods of time, like bakers and jewelers, and in athletes who frequently use heating pads.
The best option to prevent your laptop from toasting your skin is stupidly simple: put it on a desk. Or, if that's not an option, just stick your case between your exposed lap and the scorching underbelly of your computer.