Doctors warn of laptop-related “toasted skin syndrome”

“Toasted” is a word that sounds way better when paired with “marshmallow” or “coconut” than “skin.”

“Toasted skin syndrome” isn’t new- tradesmen like glassblowers and iron workers used to get it occupationally- but now that people are increasingly using lap-based electronic devices, the skin condition is appearing again. It’s characterized by a mottled, sponge-like discoloration that often presents on the thigh area, a place where people tend to rest their electronics. While burns are a bit easier to avoid, “toasted skin syndrome” results from long-term, lower intensity heat exposure, and thusly may not be as easy to prevent.

Ten cases of the condition have been reported in medical journals in the past decade, and WebMD describes what is also being called “laptop-induced dermatosis”:

Researchers from Switzerland, reporting in the Nov. 5 issue of Pediatrics, focus on the case of a 12-year-old boy who developed a sponge-patterned discoloration on his left thigh after playing computer games with his laptop resting on his upper legs a few hours per day for several months.

“He recognized that the laptop got hot on the left side,” the researchers write. “However, regardless of that, he did not change its position.”

Doctors say the condition is seen more frequently on the left side of the body because power supplies and batteries are often located in that area. And while the syndrome is generally harmless (if creepy sounding) there is a small risk that it can develop into skin cancer. No cases of skin cancer linked to the condition have been recorded, but doctors advise using a lap desk or carrier bag to diffuse heat generated by personal electronics.