Thursday, October 7, 2010

Do You Have Toasted Skin Syndrome?

What The Heck Is That On My Legs!

Do you notice mottled discolored areas on your legs, (upper thighs)? Maybe recently you suddenly see a web like darkening of your skin even though your tan may be fading.

Do you have a habit of placing your laptop computer in your lap? And if so do you feel the heat emanating from it into your legs? Well this is a habit you may wish to change, and quickly.

Apparently, something as the simple enjoyment of doing your work at home, reclined on your favorite couch, may actually be detrimental to your well being. If your skin is becoming mottled with darkened areas, it has been determined the cause is by long term heat exposure coming from your laptop, according to the latest medical reports.

The dangers were highlighted by Swiss researchers in Journal Pediatrics discussing one case in particular, which involved a 12-year-old boy who presented with the condition on his left thigh. He is said to be the youngest of the 10 reported patients diagnosed with the laptop-induced dermatosis since it was first noticed in 2004. CBC reports that the boy was using his computer for a few hours a day for several months. The condition is said to be harmless but the discoloration can be permanent, and in some cases, the skin damage could lead to cancers.

More Case Studies

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. That case, from 2007, is one of 10 laptop-related cases reported in medical journals in the past six years.

The journal Pediatrics followed up after these results showing a common thread, warning of the dangers of resting a hot laptop on your legs for extended periods of time, whereby it resulted in erythema ab igne, a skin condition the journal describes as "a reticular, pigmented, sometimes dermatosis that is caused by prolonged exposure to heat or infrared source." Laptop-induced erythema ab igne is now being referred to as "Toasted Skin Syndrome."

In years past, "toasted skin syndrome" has occurred in workers whose jobs required being close to a heat source, including bakers and glass blowers. Even before central heating, it was seen in people who huddled near potbellied stoves to stay warm. Another concern is shown for men who perform this daily ritual with their laptops, as a rise in scrotum temperature can occur, whereby causing ill effects to sperm count. As to whether or not the effects are long or short term, has yet to be determined.

However, Dr. Andreas Arnold and Dr. Peter Itin from University Hospital Basel cite, there have not been any actual skin cancer cases linked to laptop use, but to be safe it is advised, placing a carrying case or other heat shield under the laptop if you have to hold it in your lap.

Prevention Is Easy

Others to note, is the repeated use of heating pads or hot water bottles. The heat from these can also cause similar mottling of the skin and could lead to permanent changes of the skin through prolonged skin inflammation which could potentially increase chances for squamous cell skin cancer, a more aggressive form of all skin cancers.

Also, be mindful of our children who are gamers and spend countless hours using their laptop and have the distinct habit of holding it in their lap. You may suspect this toasted skin syndrome if only one thigh is effected due to the fact, optical drives of laptops are located on the left side, and by being placed on a lap, may completely or partially obstruct the fan exhaust.

Researchers feel it is found in the majority of patients who use their laptops for an average of 6 to 8 hours each day, presenting erythema which is more evident after a few weeks. However, they feel this time is reduced to several hours when found in children since their skin is more sensitive to heat than adults. They further stipulate that as little as 109.4 to 116.6 degrees Fahrenheit is all it takes to cause this problem in patients.

This can all easily be avoided and a problem abated by simply placing the laptop on a desk or making sure, as was mentioned earlier, you put something between the heat source of your laptop and your legs. Elevating the laptop on a pillow can serve two functions, protection from the heat and reduce a hunched over posture which can cause undue strain on the neck and the trapezius.

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Aside from the advantage of using a pillow, it is easy to reduce the heat source of a laptop by making sure the fan exhaust is not blocked either. Also, heat packs and heating pads should be only used in short intervals of 15 to 20 minutes for healing benefit. Anything longer can have an adverse effect on the skin.

In Conclusion

A strong point to consider, as the popularity of laptops increases, so shall more of these diagnoses occur and time will be the deciding factor as to connecting the dots for relationship of "toasted skin syndrome" and some skin cancers, or other long term ill effects occurring in the population.

Simply being aware of this problem is literally the first step to prevention. So be mindful of any heat source you may also enjoy for warming the bones this winter, like a gas fireplace or wood stove, since sitting too close and allowing your skin to literally bake, may result in discoloration of the skin which may or may not be permanent. But now, at the very least, you know that if your skin presents with this odd looking discoloration, you'll fully understand its' cause and how to further prevent it in the future.

Stay warm and be safe this winter around all those electronic gadgets and fancy body warmers.

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