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Death by Botox? The Hidden Toll of the Quest for Beauty

Monday, February 25, 2008 by: Stephanie Brail
Tags: botox, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) How far are you willing to go for beauty? Would you be willing to gamble your life? Because that's what women are doing when they choose to receive Botox injections, based on analysis by Ralph Nadar's watchdog group, Public Citizen (http://www.citizen.org/pressroom/release.cfm...) . With 16 recorded deaths from the popular form of plastic surgery, Public Citizen is calling on the FDA to put a "black box" warning on the Botox label.

Botox is a neurotoxin that is made from botulinum toxin A, part of the same family of poisons as botulism, a common cause of fatal food poisoning. Botox is used to treat facial wrinkles (particularly on the forehead) by paralyzing the muscles of the face. Popular with celebrities, it has been lauded as a safe and effective way to stop aging. One anti-aging site (ironically called "RealSelf.com") crowed about so-called Botox "miracles" (http://www.realself.com/article/botox_cosmet...):

"Madonna, Kylie Minogue and Liz Hurley are rumored to be repeat customers on the Botox scene. Judging by their well-rested, youthful and glowing skin, Botox seems to be effective in maintaining an appearance of youth."

With the perception that Botox is safe, and being a relatively inexpensive form of plastic surgery (a few hundred dollars per shot), women have flocked to receive Botox hits. According to statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 3.8 million Botox treatments were performed in the United States in 2005 for a total of almost $1.4 billion.

But what's the real story on Botox? Is it really a good idea to purposefully inject a toxin into your face?

According to Botox critics, Botox isn't as safe as it seems. The toxin can spread from the forehead to other parts of the face and body, causing paralysis where it was not intended. Women who use Botox often report that they experience adverse effects to the treatment, particularly when they massage the injected area. Massaging the area apparently moves the toxin around the body and can cause headaches and other side effects such as droopy eyelids and more.

Consider the many anecdotal reports from Botox users on the Internet:

"I just did botox for the first time and have experienced a horrible side effect called ptosis (eye lid drooping) in one of my eyes. It is so bad that I have one eye almost completely closed and cannot properly see out of it. I feel and look like a monster," writes one Botox victim (http://www.steadyhealth.com/botox_nightmare_...) . "My doctor says this has never happened to any of his patients and advises the only thing I can do is wait. I've been waiting and trying to stay positive but it seems my problem is progressively getting worse hour by hour. I just don't know what to do anymore."

Here's another report from a 30-year-old female who received a combination of Botox and Juvederm three weeks in advance of an important first date (http://messageboards.makemeheal.com/viewtopi...):

"After a few weeks I developed brown bruising, weird swelling which casts shadows and a sunken appearance around my orbital rims. And also my brows are droopy not lifted from botox," she wrote. "...I've taken copious pictures before and after. The difference is striking and depressing. I look suddenly older, tired and expressionless. All this combines to make me, a 30 year-old, look 10-15 years older."

Not only did her family and co-workers note her "weird appearance," but she lost her chance with her date, who thought that she had altered her photographs prior to meeting him.

Even celebrities are vowing to ditch the Botox needle. Actress Angelica Huston swore off Botox when the toxin froze her face (http://www.starpulse.com/news/index.php/2006...) . She explained, "I went to a doctor who said, 'Angelica, we have this wonderful new thing, it's called Botox.' He took a huge needle and plunged it into my third eye. The pain was something inexplicable. I gasped, I writhed and when I came to, I had a headache that lasted four days. A serious one."

But there's a bigger danger with Botox: death.

Public Citizen analyzed FDA data on Botox from 1997 to 2006. Among the findings: 180 patients developed life-threatening conditions after being injected with Botox, with 16 deaths and 87 hospitalizations. Four of the deaths occurred in children under 18. The injections of the neurotoxin, which is used to induce paralysis at the wrinkled area, apparently also caused paralysis of the respiratory muscles and dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), leading to pneumonia and fluid in the lungs.

Additionally, 658 cases of patients having adverse effects to Botox were reported. Because these reports were voluntary and came from the makers of Botox, they are estimated to account for only 10 percent of all cases.

In response to these findings, Public Citizen drafted a petition to the FDA requesting a letter be sent to doctors warning of possible Botox adverse effects, as well as a "black box" label on the packaging. Public Citizen is also asking that doctors be required to provide a medication guide to patients warning them about the potential side effects of Botox.

"These significantly improved warnings to doctors and patients would increase the likelihood of earlier medical intervention when symptoms of adverse reactions to botulinum toxin first appear and could prevent more serious complications, including death," said Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group. "Nobody should be dying from injected botulinum toxin, Educating physicians and patients about what adverse symptoms to look for and when to seek immediate medical attention will save lives."

Public Citizen cites the following symptoms as warning signs that could lead to a fatal form of Botox poisoning: dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing, slurred speech, drooping eyelids and muscle weakness.

There's even greater danger when Botox is administered improperly. In 2004, Bonnie and Eric Kaplan received an overdose of Botox from a doctor and had to be hospitalized and put on respirators (http://www.wsbtv.com/health/4166244/detail.h...) . In critical condition, they could not speak or breathe on their own, and they could barely move. Eric Kaplan had to be fed through a tube placed into his stomach. They filed a lawsuit against the doctor, alleging that he used an improperly mixed dose of Botox that was 10 times stronger than normal.

If the physical dangers are not enough, British doctors performed a study in 2006 and found that Botox injections can be psychologically addicting, with four out of 10 receiving injections compulsively (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?x...) .

Low self-esteem and an obsession with outer beauty appear to be the culprits. As pop star Gary Numan's wife Gemma Numan said:

"I have regular injections of Botox. When I have had one treatment, I can't wait for the next. Every minute takes me nearer to my goal: looking better and feeling happier. Without it, I feel ugly, unsexy and unlovable."

The question then becomes: Would you rather feel unsexy, or would you rather be dead?

About the author

Stephanie Brail is a wellness coach, healer and hypnotherapist. She provides information and perspectives on alternative health, well-being, spirituality, and more at www.feelgoodgirl.com.

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