The risky side of beauty

BLINDNESS and dead skin tissue are some of the risks that patients face from certain cosmetic procedures.

There have been reported cases of these two complications as the popularity of dermal filler injections continues to grow worldwide, says Malaysian Society of Aesthetic Medicine (MSAM) president Dr Hew Yin Keat.

"However, by and large, popular and well-documented procedures like botulinum toxin (Botox) injections, hyaluronic acid fillers and medical grade lasers do not cause any permanent side effects.

"This is even when used repeatedly over many years - as long as they are properly administered by a licensed doctor," he says. Dr Hew says side effects from aesthetic procedures differ from treatment to treatment.

"One thing to reassure the public about aesthetic medical procedures is that the side effects or complications are rarely life threatening.

"This is, unless it is a severe allergic reaction. Even then, it would not be lethal if the patient does not delay seeking medical attention," he says in an interview.

He says other side effects include scarring, hypo and hyperpigmentation from laser procedures, allergic reactions from topical medical products and procedures involving injections, and headaches from Botox jabs.

Hypopigmentation is the loss of skin colour while hyperpigmentation refers to patches of skin that are darker compared to normal areas.

Dr Hew says most of the side effects occur within a few days, except for scarring and hypopigmentation.

"Another side effect that can occur later is the formation of granulomas, or hard lumps, which appear in some areas where certain fillers are injected.

"Sometimes they can appear five to six years after the filler injection," he says.

Dr Hew says the attraction of aesthetic medicine procedures is that they are usually non-surgical in nature and have minimal downtime or recovery period.

"As such, patients seek treatments that can replace invasive surgical procedures that carry higher risks," he says.

MSAM immediate past president Dr Chin Shih Choon says some instant side effects from aesthetic procedures are pain, swelling or bruises.

He says late complications can occur days or even weeks later, including infections.

"Dangerous complications like vascular compromise and blindness could also occur," he says.

Vascular compromise can be caused when a dermal filler is injected into an artery or around it, leading to blood flow being restricted or blocked which can result in the surrounding area of skin dying.

Dr Chin urges those considering cosmetic procedures to seek a qualified doctor, as safety should always be a priority.

Consultant plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgeon Dr A. Ananda Dorai (pic) says that some patients are worried about the side effects of such cosmetic surgery like pain but pain can be controlled with today's medical advancements.

"However, I advise people to always choose a qualified doctor and go for the safest technique available. People should also avoid doing too many procedures at one go as it can be risky," he says.

Malaysian Mental Health Association deputy president Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj says the ultimate aim of undergoing cosmetic procedures is to gain more self-esteem.

But for some, such treatments only give them self-confidence for a short period of time, he says.

"After that, they may continue to feel inadequate in other areas and their self-esteem takes a plunge again," says Dr Andrew.

He also raises concern that many fall prey to the enticement of substandard or dubious aesthetic services mushrooming all over the country.

Aesthetic medicine practitioner Dr Kee Yong Seng says some of his clients tell him they want to look like famous celebrities and stars.

"However, even as they strive to look younger and more refreshed, I urge patients to be proud of their unique features and stay true to themselves," he says.