A review is given of recent experimental results on laser-induced electric breakdown in transparent optical solid materials. A fundamental breakdown threshold exists characteristic for each material. The threshold is determined by the same physical process as dc breakdown, namely, avalanche ionization. The dependence of the threshold on laser pulse duration and frequency is consistent with this process. The implication of this breakdown mechanism for laser bulk and surface damage to optical components is discussed. It also determines physical properties of self-focused filaments.