Botox, fillers, and plastic surgery seem de rigueur these days, with anti-aging spas in practically every strip mall. No longer the domain of celebrities, Botox treatments are more affordable than ever and hence accessible to the masses. But at what price? Some research suggests those regular wrinkle-relaxing Botox shots may be messing with your brain — in more ways than one.
For starters, some studies suggest Botox may actually make its way into your brain. Rat studies showed that when botulinum toxin, type A (the active ingredient in Botox) was injected into one side of the brain, it was found in the opposite side of the brain. When the substance was injected into their whiskers it also made its way into the brain. Of course, these studies used small amounts of the purified and more potent form of the toxin, and not the diluted form found in Botox. But it does raise concerns.
A Swiss study on humans found Botox has neurological effects. Researchers measured electrical signals from the brain in human subjects before and after a Botox treatment. Because facial expressions activate different parts of the brain, paralyzing minute facial movements reduces the amount of impulses sent to the brain. As a result, a nearby area that responds to input from the hands also becomes underactive. Researchers concluded that the small loss of movement in the face due to Botox injections may affect touch sensation in the hands. Further studies are needed to determine whether other parts of the body are affected as well.
Humans are able to detect what others are feeling by instinctively mimicking facial expressions Because Botox paralyzes facial muscles and hinders facial expressions, it may diminish a person’s ability to read the emotions of others. A 2011 study found that subjects who had Botox injections were less able to read the emotions of others compared to those who had non-paralyzing fillers used to smooth their wrinkles instead. Another study even suggested that Botox makes it more difficult for a person to feel their own emotions.
Fillers also have their risks. There have been reported cases of filler injections blocking blood flow to the eyes, thus causing blindness. In a worst-case scenario, fillers that make their way into an artery that supplies the brain with blood can cause a stroke. There have been four reported incidences of stroke caused by fillers and almost 50 reported incidences of blindness. Of course, compared to the millions of people who use fillers to smooth out facial lines, these numbers are small, but under-reporting is a serious concern due to lack of regulations. In fact, many practitioners are not even aware of these risks.
Although the industry could stand some more studies and more regulation, anecdotal reports on beauty forums, complaints, and lawsuits paint a more disturbing picture of Botox and fillers.
For instance, some Botox users allege devastating brain injury, chronic pain, double vision, and breathing difficulty after receiving the injections.
Other complaints on message boards include drooping eyes and eyebrows, intense pain and headaches, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, dizziness, and more.
Public Citizen, a watchdog group, found that during a 10-year period reports linked Botox to 180 life-threatening conditions, 87 hospitalizations, and 16 deaths. Again, it is believed lack of regulation has led to under reporting.
It isn’t easy to age in a culture obsessed with youth, media, and selfies, but it’s important to be aware of the risks before you decide on seemingly innocuous procedures.
By eating healthy, exercising regularly, and using functional medicine approaches to care for your health, you will not only look healthy and vibrant at any age, you will also have more natural self-confidence so you wear your “story-lines” with pride.
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