Effect Of Laptop Heat : Toasted Skin Syndrome

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Do you like working on your laptop computer with it sitting on your lap, heating up your legs ? If so, you might want to rethink that habit. Doing it a lot can lead to “toasted skin syndrome,” an unusual looking mottled skin condition caused by long-term heat exposure, according to medical reports.

Laptop computers are small, portable and convenient. The portability allows its use almost anywhere. However, there are also health hazard associated with some applications of use that can be controlled by practicing good “ergonomics”.

Ergonomics are those factors or qualities in the design of something, especially a workplace or equipment used by people at work, that contribute to comfort, efficiency, safety, and ease of use

Using laptop computers placed on the lap has been suspected of causing health problems and may impact the musculoskeletal system, skin, and fertility. These potential impacts though not fully understood, are briefly reviewed below.

We do know using a laptop computer on the lap can lead to awkward or non neutral postures and these postures can lead to strain and eventual aches and pains. To minimize risk of strain we suggest placing the laptop on a desk. Better still; try using a separate mouse, keyboard, monitor, and docking station. These allow you to position your tools to fit your body and achieve more neutral postures. The static reaching positioning of the arms is neutralized by this.

Laptop computers generate heat from the central processing unit, lithium ion battery and even the hard drive. More common in the old days, “toasted skin syndrome”, also known as “erythema ab igne”, refers to a skin injury resulting from chronic or repeated exposure to heat. It was seen amongst workers who stood in front of fireplaces or kilns. Now, toasted skin syndrome is more commonly related to heating pads or laptop computer use.

laptop lap desk
Photo credit : www.apartmenttherapy.com

Dermatologists say toasted skin syndrome is associated with a very slight increase in skin cancers. If skin changes have been short lived, the appearance of the skin may normalize in a period of months.



Major manufacturers including Apple, Hewlett Packard and Dell warn in user manuals against placing laptops on laps or exposed skin for extended periods of time because of the risk for burns.

A medical report several years ago found that men who used laptops on their laps had elevated scrotum temperatures. If prolonged, that kind of heat can decrease sperm production, which can potentially lead to infertility. Whether laptop use itself can cause that kind of harm hasn’t been confirmed.

Photo credit : www.dailymail.co.uk

Also, the impact of heat on male fertility is old news. Recent preliminary research in Toronto, by male fertility expert Sergey Moskovtsev, indicates that heat from laptop computers when used on the lap negatively affects sperm motility. He indicates a possibility that other laptop computer related factors may affect fertility as well, however research continues…

What to do about it

It is important to control exposure to the heat source and neutralize your posture. If the use of a desk is not possible, ensure the following measures to help reduce heat affecting skin and fertility.

Ensure ;

  • Sufficient cooling space between the laptop and the lap
  • Air circulation around the laptop
  • Unobstructed vents in the laptop

New products such as lap desks and cooling pads are available in stores and may help laptop users in their effort to avoid the heat while adding life to their computer.

See a doctor about any problem if you have questions or if the skin changes do not resolve.

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