Debate Magazine

Injecting Cosmetic Fillers into Your Face Can Lead to Blindness

By Eowyn @DrEowyn
Bob Costas with

Bob Costas with “pink eye”

What price vanity?

A source told the New York Post that NBC’s prime-time Olympics host Bob Costas, who had to take a 6-day absence after coming down with viral conjunctivitis in both eyes, had contracted the infection from a “botched” Botox injection to smooth out facial wrinkles. More than that, the source said, “This isn’t the first time he’s had it.”

NBC, of course, denies that Costas — who arrived to host the games in Sochi with a forehead smoother than the Olympic luge track — developed the infection from a Botox procedure.

Costas actually is very lucky. Instead of “pink eye,” he could have gone blind from the Botox.

Botox is the shortened form of Botulinum toxin, a neurotoxin, which Wikipedia calls “the most acutely toxic substance known” — the same Botulinum toxin that causes the deadly disease of botulism.

Bahar Gholipour reports for Live Science that according to a new report published on March 6, 2014 in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology, injecting cosmetic fillers into the forehead to remove wrinkles can cause permanent blindness.

Injecting fat, collagen or special cosmetic products like Botox under the skin for facial rejuvenation is an extremely common procedure and is fairly safe, with side effects usually limited to bruises or swelling of the skin.

However, the Food and Drug Administration approves the fillers only for the middle parts of the face, for example around the mouth, but not for use around the eye area. Despite the lack of FDA approval, the fillers are commonly used as “off-label” by doctors for wrinkles around the eye and on the forehead.

The report’s author Dr. Michelle Carle, an ophthalmologist at Retina Vitreous Associates Medical Group in Los Angeles, explains that when injected in the area around the eye, the fillers may accidentally get into small blood vessels on the face, and find their way into the eye’s artery and block its blood supply.

Because of the intricate web of arteries and vessels around the eye, any injection done in that area poses a risk of material entering the eye artery. The visual effects of a blockage in the arteries are devastating and irreversible in otherwise healthy patients.

Carle said doctors should discuss with their patients that there’s a small risk of damage to the eye with such procedures: “While this complication is very rare, it is very significant. A bruise will go away, but vision loss is permanent.”

Carle and her colleagues treated three patients who permanently lost their vision in one or both eyes after having a cosmetic facial enhancement:

  • A woman in her mid-40s who had received an injection of bovine collagen and a dermal filler product called Artefill to remove her forehead creases. After the injection was complete, she opened her eyes and could not see with her right eye, according to the report p
  • A man in his 30s who lost part of his vision in his left eye, following an injection of a gel called hyaluronic acid, which blocked the blood supply to his retina.
  • A healthy woman in her 60s who experienced severe loss of vision after receiving fat injections around her hairline.

While complications from these increasingly common cosmetic procedures are rare, cases of blindness, stroke and even death have been reported.


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