Side effects from botox include headaches and bruising, as well as botulism, which is potentially fatal. Photo: Shutterstock

Doctors warn of botox risks as fourth Hong Kong woman develops botulism after treatment in mainland China

Local clinics see rise in number of patients requiring follow-up treatment after visiting beauty centres across the border

Doctors warned of botox-related side effects after four cases of botulism, all involving local women getting injections in mainland China, were reported the space of a week.

The four women, aged between 21 and 47, developed potentially fatal complications such as difficulty in swallowing and breathing, and were admitted into hospitals for further treatment.

The Medical Association advised the public to understand the functions and potential risks of botox injections before getting them, and to have the procedures performed by qualified doctors in Hong Kong.

Compared to last year, private dermatologists this year noticed a 20 to 30 per cent rise in the number of patients who required follow-up treatment at local clinics after receiving beauty treatments on the mainland.

“All information available now only highlights the benefits without mentioning the risks,” Dr Kingsley Chan Hau-ngai, a private dermatologist and council member of the Medical Association, said.

Apart from patients suffering less severe side effects such as headaches and bruising, Chan has treated a 47-year-old woman who could not open her right eye after having botox done elsewhere.

“The dosage used might be too high ... and the injection site might not be accurate enough,” Chan said, adding that it could take up to six months for the symptoms to disappear, after effects from the botox dispersed.

Each month, his clinic treats two to three cases which need follow-up after beauty treatments, including botox injection, on the mainland.

Of those with botulism – a serious possible side effect from the injection – 5 to 10 per cent of them could die, according to the World Health Organisation.

While aesthetic doctors said on Saturday that this would take around six times the normal dosage, Chan said receiving injections on the entire body at once would lead to potential risks, as the diluted level of the toxin was not the same for different body parts.

There could be an issue if the same tube was used for the entire body, he said, adding that various brands had their own methods of dilution even for the same body part.

Dr Chow Pak-chin, the association’s vice-president, advised the public to receive high-risk beauty treatments in the city.

“Doctors are trained and are under strict regulation by the Medical Council,” said Chow.