Are Injectable Fillers Linked to Blindness?
Injectable fillers have been a popular alternative to facial surgeries for treating frown and laugh lines. Many patients believe that fillers are safer than surgery and need very little recovery time. Although these assumptions are generally true, potential patients seeking treatment with injectable fillers should be advised that the improper use of fillers, especially for the treatment of laugh and frown lines, has been linked to permanent blindness.
In a recent South Korean study published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology, the improper use of injectable fillers was shown to cause retinal artery occlusion (RAO) and permanent blindness. RAO is the blurring or loss of vision in the eye due to blockage in retinal arteries. All patients in the study developed RAO after having injections in either the glabellar area (space between the eyebrows and above the nose) or nasolabial folds (frown lines). In addition, patients who received fat transfers exhibited more severe symptoms than those who received synthetic fillers. This may be attributed to the fact that fat particles vary in size and may cause more blockage.
It must be noted that the authors of this study consider RAO and blindness to be extremely rare complications of facial injections. According to American plastic surgeons and dermatologists, this side-effect is non-existent and has not been presented in any national medical conferences.
The South Korean study does not indicate where the patients received their injections, so it is possible that they received them from non-physicians. Spas and salons often offer medical procedures, mostly injectable fillers, as a part of their list of services. Many times these injections are not performed by physicians and are in less-than-sterile environments. It is imperative that patients only have filler injections performed by physicians who are experienced in the procedure. Should complications arise, only a board certified physician will be able to quickly diagnose and treat them.