US teenagers get 12,000 botox jabs in a year

Botulinum toxin, which is sold under the brand names Botox and Dysport, was injected 12,000 times into Americans aged 13 to 19 last year. And some of them even got multiple doses, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons has said. The number represented a 2 percent increase from 2008.

Before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Botox for cosmetic use in 2002, it was used in the treatments of neuromuscular and eye disorders. But today, nobody knows how many teenagers are using them for medical rather than aesthetic purposes, according to The New York Times.

The drug which can help with physical problems like pain in the temporomandibular joint of the jaw and improving the patient's looks, can also have side effects.

Although botox is approved by the FDA to be used therapeutically in children as young as 12 with abnormal twitching of the eyelid or crossed eyes. It can also help patients 16 and older with involuntary contraction of neck muscles, and by people 18 and up to combat excessive sweating.

But doctors are injecting teenagers for a variety of perceived imperfections, from a too-gummy smile to a too-square jaw, The Times said.

Samuel M. Lam, a facial plastic surgeon in Dallas, said he has seen more than 100 patients for jaw reduction via botox. About 90 percent of them sought treatment for cosmetic reasons, he said, but even the 10 percent who had medical problems wanted it for aesthetic purposes, too.

"It's cause and effect," Lam said. The initial problem may be pain in temporomandibular joint (TMJ), "but the effect is an enlarged lower face," he said.

Dr. Lam said he had injected many people in their late teens and 20s, but no minors. But he said he is not opposed to treating children this way, depending on their maturity and motivation.

He said that he has performed cosmetic surgery on teenagers, including nose jobs and an operation to create creases in the eyelids of minors of Asian descent.

Michele Borba, the author of many parenting books, wrote on her website: "If your daughter is begging for Botox, believe me, an injection is not the cure. There's a much deeper issue at stake and I'm betting it's self-esteem. Say no to that injection. Address her feelings of 'inadequacy' and not her need to cover up a so-called wrinkle."

However, Dr. Rod J. Rohrich, the chairman of plastic surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, said that he selectively does "lots of Botox" for wrinkles on patients starting in their late 20s.

When it comes to teenagers, Dr. Rohrich, who is also editor of the Journal of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, says he injects them with Botox infrequently - and usually only for migraine relief. "That works well," he said. "I do it a lot around final exams."

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