Placing a laptop directly on your legs for prolonged periods can harm the skin.
The laptop was invented to provide user mobility — so we don’t end up being chained to our desk computers. But working for hours with the laptop perched on your lap could result in discoloured patchy skin. While you could be enjoying the heat emanating, you could also develop Toasted Skin Syndrome. Here’s more about the condition…
What is it?
It is clinically known as Erythema Ab Igne and also known by names such as ‘laptop thigh’ and ‘hot water bottle rash’. Swiss doctors call it ‘laptop-induced dermatosis’. Cosmeto-dermatologist Dr Anuya Manerkar defines it as “A coarsely reticulated pigmentation which is produced by prolonged exposure to excessive heat without the production of a burn.”
Who is at risk?
“People who spend prolonged periods of time studying, reading, or playing games on laptops resting on their upper legs could develop this skin syndrome,” warns dermatologist Dr Shreyas Kamath. This skin condition is common among people often exposed to heat while working (blacksmiths, silversmiths, cooks, etc). Now, people using laptops for long hours are facing this.
The prolonged placement of laptop on the thighs results in thermal build of around 44 degrees of heat to which the skin responds by developing persistent redness and pigmentation. This has been reported in medical literature between 2004 to date, explains dermatologist and dermatosurgeon Dr Shenaz Z Arsiwala.
“The skin develops a patch which is mottled (caused by local hemostasis — stagnation of blood) and later becomes reticulated erythema (patchy striped erythema) leaving behind pigmentation,” says Dr Manerkar.
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Cosmeto-dermatologist Dr Swati Srivastava warns that repeated skin exposure can waste tissues, typically due to the degeneration of cells. If there is a persistent soreness that does not heal, a skin biopsy should be performed to rule out the possibility of skin cancer.
First of all, identification of the root cause, i.e., the source of the heat, needs to be identified. If it is excess duration of laptop usage, it should be cut down. Also, direct contact of the laptop and the skin should be avoided by placing a barrier in between. Dr Arsiwala says laptop coolers are also available. The skin change, if detected early and is mild in nature, can settle on its own without treatment. For persistent redness, anti-inflammatory creams can be used. For pigmentary changes, addition of topical tretinoin (a drug related to retinol or vitamin A) cream may be mandatory. In some cases, one may require laser therapy.