Since Botox is becoming more and more popular, I figure it’s time to share my experience with it. While the injection may seem harmless, the risks and potential side effects of Botox are very real.
Back when I was 17, I read in a tabloid that celebrities were injecting their armpits with Botox to prevent sweating in their red carpet gowns.
Ooh great idea! Sweat is gross and I sweat a lot so why not give it a try!
At the time I was sweating profusely through my shirts to the point I had to change multiple times a day. I was diagnosed with hyperhidrosis (aka excessive sweating without exertion).
This was before my food is medicine / your ailments are warning signals epiphany. Looking back, I realize my excessive sweating was likely due to an imbalance undoubtedly caused by my Standard American diet and lifestyle.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine it would be considered a problem of excess heat, and the remedy would be cooling the body down through the diet. (Side note: By changing my diet, I was able to get rid of the excessive sweating).
So, I went to a dermatologist with my mom, and asked for Botox injections in my armpits and he happily obliged. I don’t remember how much he put in, but two weeks later I was still sweating so I went back and he put even more in (which I have since learned is a big no no).
After The Injection: Auto-Immune Disease
Shortly after injection, the lymph nodes under my arms got extremely swollen and painful to the point that I screamed in pain if they were touched. Being a teenager with little knowledge of anatomy, it didn’t occur to me that injecting a toxin into an area covered in lymph nodes was probably not a good idea. I’m not sure I even realized it was a toxin. I assumed that if my doctor could inject it, it must be safe!
At that time I also gradually developed a thick 3-inch long and 1.5-inch tall scar on one side of my chest- just an inch from where I was injected. It turns out I developed the autoimmune disease called morphea, a form of scleroderma in which the body creates excess collagen, creating what looks like thick shiny scars on the skin.
I got Botox over 10 years ago, I still have morphea (although much improved as shown in the current photo above), and a lymph node in my right underarm next to the scar still swells up from time to time- particularly around my period when I’m not eating as healthy as I could or when I’m stressed.
While I can’t say with 100% certainty the injection caused the autoimmune disease or was the only factor, spend a little time on Botox forums and you’ll see numerous people have developed autoimmune conditions or health issues shortly after injection- some much more severe than mine.
Some may so, oh Botox wears off in a matter of months (For hyperhidrosis treatment, they say the effects last 4-14 months). The truth is 1- we don’t actually know if and when the toxin is eliminated from the body and 2- if it causes irreparable damage while it’s in there, you’re still left with the damage.
What is Botox?
Botox stands for botulinum toxin. Not only is it a toxin, it is considered the most most poisonous biological substances known.(1)
“It was identified in the 1820s as the bacterium found in contaminated food that causes botulism poisoning, which can be fatal. During World War II, U.S. scientists studied the neurotoxin’s effectiveness as a weapon. And during the 1980s and early 1990s, it was a key part of Iraq’s arsenal of biological weapons.” (2)
Adverse Affects of Botox
For a more thorough discussion and real life cases, please listen to or read the transcript of my podcast episode: Botox: What Your Doctor May Not Tell You. In it, I interview top civil trial lawyer, Ray Chester, who has represented over 50 cases of people severely injured by Botox.
Most of the adverse affects from Botox have been experienced when used off label or higher doses, not cosmetic doses used in the face. That said, it’s not impossible to have adverse reactions from a cosmetic injection.
Take the case of Dr. Sharla Helton, a successful Ob/Gyn and co-founder of a women’s specialty hospital in Oklahoma. After a cosmetic Botox injection to treat wrinkles in her face, her life and career came crashing down. She was diagnosed by the National Institute of Health with botulism.
She experienced profound weakness and fatigue; she was initially bedridden and even after several months she could barely walk 100 feet without being overcome with muscle fatigue. On top of that, the injections lead to a toxic peripheral neuropathy, causing pain and numbness in her extremities which feels like she is being electrocuted. This turned out to be a permanent condition and necessitated giving up her career.
She took Allergan (the makers of Botox) to court and won. The jury awarded her $15 million for her injuries. Allergan appealed, but the Oklahoma Court of Appeals affirmed the verdict in favor of Helton. (3)
Playing Down the Risks
Not only has the drug company itself downplayed the risks for years, the doctors who inject it rarely inform the patient of the full extent of the risks. In 2009, after a number of lawsuits brought against the makers of Botox for severe injury or death, the FDA required that the Botox box have a “black box label” on it, warning of a rare but potentially life-threatening complication when the effects of the toxin spread beyond the injection site.
Unfortunately, most patients never actually see the black box warning label, because it’s the doctor who takes it out of the box. It’s up to them to disclose the warnings or not, and in practice, many don’t discuss the more rare but serious side effects. The patient typically just sees the needle going in.
As Lawyer Ray Chester explained, Botox is now essentially a “take at your own risk” drug, because if you do have any adverse effects, you’re on your own. You’ve technically already been warned by the black box label (even though you probably never saw it), and so you have little legal recourse. There is also no antidote for it.
If you use or are thinking about Botox, definitely check out this podcast episode Botox: What Your Doctor May Not Tell You.
Societal Pressure to Remain Youthful
So, how do I feel when I see articles with a headline like “NYC plastic surgeons flooded with post lockdown Botox requests”? in the NY Post or see celebrities and influencers glorifying their injections?
Like it is my duty to warn people of the very real side effects of injecting poison – Botulinum toxin- into your body.
But also to remind people, that A: human expression and aging is a beautiful thing and B: that a healthy diet and lifestyle is so powerful, it can not only prevent wrinkles, but reverse them.
If you’re feeling societal pressure to look more youthful, eat more vegetables and fruit, less processed foods and sugar, and remember, the most beautiful and attractive things about a person are their confidence, attitude, and kindness.