While it is best known as an aesthetic/anti-ageing treatment, Botox or Botulinum Toxin is actually an incredibly versatile product with a range of medical uses. It was originally developed to treat squints and is now used for conditions as various as excessive sweating, migraine, overactive bladder and back pain.
As medics, we’re excited to see new developments in use of these treatments and a recent research study this year has added a new use for Botox to its list of potential applications – treating cheek enlargement in HIV patients.
Posterior Cheek Enlargement in HIV Patients
Posterior cheek enlargement is a side effect of the treatment of HIV patients. Changes in contour and shape of the lower face can arise due to loss of facial fat, which is a common consequence of the antiretroviral medication. The face can look bulky and wide in the lower face leading to quite significant disfigurement, which can have a psychosocial impact on patients, making patients feel vulnerable and concerned that their condition makes them ‘look like’ a person living with HIV, which affects how those around them perceive them and treat them too.
Botulinum toxin has now been used in a trial of HIV positive patients and shown good results in 100% of the patients in improving the aesthetic appearance of the facial features. Results showed a 21.4% mean decrease in masseter muscle volume and a 11.2% decrease in the volume of the parotid gland. All patients remained satisfied after 6 months and all who responded were still satisfied at 12 months.
The researchers said:
“Botulinum Toxin A was found to be effective for posterior cheek enlargement could represent a novel treatment for this condition. This was easy to administer, generally well tolerated wtih no downtime and provided long lasting results. However, it is a temporary treatment and injections need to be repeated to maintain the desired result.”
The treatment has the potential to powerfully improve patients’ self-esteem.
Botox as a Medical Procedure
This development does underline that botulinum toxin injections are above all a medical treatment. Botox and similar products are prescription only medicines which must be prescribed by a qualified individual after face to face consultation with the patient. While there are no specific regulations at present about who is qualified to inject botox, medical professionals working in and out of the cosmetic treatments industry generally agree that it should be carried out by a medically qualified professional who has specific training and experience of the treatment.
by Dr Tim Pearce, MBChB BSc (hons) MRCGP