The risks of Botox

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This week our contributing writer Doctor Gifford-Jones discusses the dangers of using Botox.

What a paradox! Botulism toxin, historically one of the world’s deadly killers, has now been approved by Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as “Botox”, a new cosmetic treatment. The result? Thousands of aging baby boomers, TV stars and others are lining up to have this well-known poison injected into their skin to bring back their youth. And in ditzy California they’re even organizing “Botox parties”!

Botox is not a new drug. The FDA approved its use years ago to treat certain medical conditions such as facial spasms and crossed-eyes. Now it’s being used to treat migraine headaches and chronic low back pain.

But the idea that Botox had cosmetic use started 15 years ago. A Canadian doctor using Botox to treat eye conditions noticed that its paralyzing effect also removed wrinkles. But the idea remained dormant until recently. Now, in a society that does not want to grow older the rush to restore youth with Botox injections has become a big-time money-maker for Allergan pharmaceutical company.

One plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills, California, says he has already performed a few thousand Botox procedures. And he recently arranged a Botox party at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. Guests talk about plastic surgery, receive their Botox injections together, sip champagne and have a massage. How much better can it get?

But how can you inject such a potent poison without causing harm? Botox is a refined strain of the toxin and only a diluted form is injected into facial muscles that control wrinkling. During the following four days the toxin paralyzes the muscles and pronto!, wrinkles are gone. The injections are almost painless.

Patients must remain upright for four hours following the injection. The treated areas should not be touched and it’s important not to have a facial massage.

A major problem is that the Botox effect gradually wears off so repeat $400.00 injections are needed in four months.

Some patients experience a slight headache after the injection which lasts a few hours. But a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association claims that about one percent of patients suffers a debilitating headache that can last a week or two. An anti-frown injection in the wrong place can also cause troubles such as a droopy eyelid or a lopsided smile.

So what do I think about this procedure for cosmetic reasons? I wouldn’t touch Botox injections with a 10 foot pole. Why? Common sense tells me that it’s totally unnatural to inject a well-known poison, even in dilute amounts, into the body. We know that a single gram of the undiluted form could kill more than a million people. And how many times in the past have we seen approved drugs eventually shown to have unforeseen complications?

Medical consumers should also see a red flag when Botox injections are given in shopping malls. As one doctor remarked, “If Botox is downgraded to the level of a Tupperware party, we’re not handling it properly”.

I have no quarrel with trying to look your best. But if someone invites you to a Botox party, run for the woods. Any fool can give an injection, but the dosage and where it’s given must be tailored to the patient’s needs. So if you agree to an injection while champagne is flowing and hygiene is questionable, Samuel Beckett will be proven right when he remarked that “We are all born mad and some of us remain so!”

As in all cosmetic nips and tucks, the terrible downside is devastating. Sooner or later the injections must cease. After all, you can’t stop an aging face forever. And vanity exacts its price. The wrinkles not seen for many years then descend with a fury on your face and psyche.

Men had better be careful these days who they marry. Their partner may have the looks of Venus De Milo on her wedding day. But when they discontinue their Botox they may look like shar-pei, the Chinese dog with loose wrinkled skin!

Would I ever agree to Botox? You bet. I’d gladly pay $400.00 or more when they find a Botox solution to eradicate the internal wrinkles that eventually kill us. Until then I’ll keep my money.

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