Archive for Thursday, June 20, 2002

Popularity of Botox surges as many seek smoother look

June 20, 2002


— If you could erase years of accumulated wrinkles, squint lines and crow's feet from your face with a simple injection, would you?

Hundreds of thousands of Americans have answered "Yes!" to that question in recent years, and the number of people who want to receive Botox treatments is only expected to grow.

The federal Food and Drug Administration approved Botox in 1989 to treat eye muscles subject to spasm and other medical conditions. In the past two years, the popularity of having it injected for aesthetic purposes has surged.

Botox, derived from the bacterium Clostridium botulinum  in much larger doses the source of food poisoning  is being hailed by some devotees as the "fountain of youth in a syringe." The American Society of Plastic Surgery says that about 787,000 Americans received Botox injections in 2000, making it one of the top five nonsurgical cosmetic procedures performed in the United States. Others are decrying the seemingly casual use of the paralyzing poison.

In April, the FDA announced Botox had been specifically approved for use "to temporarily improve the appearance of moderate to severe frown lines between the eyebrows."

"I guarantee you that it will be more and more widely used," said Dr. Daniel Dickerson, a general practice physician with Eudora Family Care, 101 W. 10th St. "People are concerned about their looks, and now that it's FDA approved (for cosmetic purposes), there is no doubt it will spread. It's an injection and as simple as getting an immunization."

Dickerson is an employee of Lawrence Memorial Hospital. He has a doctorate in biochemistry and has taught in the medical school of the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Among the physicians in Lawrence offering Botox therapy are Dr. Lee Bittenbender of the Dermatology Center of Lawrence, 930 Iowa; Drs. Scott Thellman and John Keller of Lawrence Plastic Surgery, 1112 W. Sixth St., suite 210; and Drs. Robert Dinsdale and Lee Reussner of Lawrence Otolaryngology, 1112 W. Sixth St., suite 216.

Little discomfort

Dickerson, who has received specialized training in aesthetic medicine, has performed Botox treatments on patients dozens of times. He has even received them himself to ease the pain of muscle-tension headaches.

"This is one of the medical topics where a lot of the glamour magazines have probably gotten it right, in articles that explain it and walk people through it," he says. "All Botox does is get rid of wrinkles that develop when your muscles contract, and it may prevent permanent wrinkles from developing."

Botox injections are being touted as a simple, quick and minimally invasive treatment that can deliver dramatic results with very little discomfort.

Botox therapy is administered in a few injections of purified protein directly into a specific area. The injections relax wrinkle-causing muscles, which creates a smoothed and improved appearance on the forehead, in between and at the corners of the eyes, or at the edges of the mouth.

A typical treatment of one facial area takes about five minutes.

"It doesn't hurt when it's injected. It's just a little needle going in, and it's one of the smallest needles that we use," Dickerson says.

The effects of an initial Botox injection usually last about three months, while the effects of subsequent treatments can last as long as six months.

The cost of Botox therapy may vary widely, depending upon the doctor who administers it. Dickerson estimates that a treatment of one facial area, such as the muscles in between the eyes, costs about $250.

Boosts confidence

Done correctly, Botox injections appear to pose little risk to patients, according to Dickerson. The major risk would be a temporary paralysis of the eyelid, called ptosis. But any problems would be reversible, because Botox only binds temporarily to the nerve of the muscle that is injected.

Still, women who are pregnant or lactating or people who have neuromuscular diseases such as multiple sclerosis, shouldn't get Botox injections.

Dickerson said he believes Botox therapy is helpful for people who are concerned about their appearance.

"If it makes you feel better about yourself, you will present yourself with more confidence, which will help you in your personal and professional life," he says. "And it's a great medication because it's reversible. It's not permanent, like a facelift."

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