11 December 2017 0 Comments Posted By : Maryse Zeidler

30 years ago, this Vancouver doctor pioneered use of Botox for cosmetic purposes

Cathy Swann was around 30 years old and working as a medical receptionist when she first started getting Botox to treat a deep wrinkle between her eyebrows.

"It was a little daunting watching the needle coming to your forehead between your eyes," Swann said from her home in Penticton, B.C.

The year was 1987 and Swann wasn't just any receptionist.

She was working for Dr. Jean Carruthers, a Vancouver-based ophthalmologist who pioneered the use of Botox, a botulism-based toxin that temporarily paralyzes muscles, for cosmetic purposes.

In the 30 years since, Botox has become one of the world's most common cosmetic procedures — and is now used to treat an ever-expanding array of medical conditions. 

Doctors say the procedure is relatively safe, although health organizations warn of potential side effects ranging from droopy eyelids and crooked smiles to trouble breathing and vision problems.

Despite the procedure's ease and efficacy, critics say it's emblematic of a culture obsessed with preserving youth at any cost. 

'Beautiful, untroubled expression'

Carruthers was one of the first doctors to use Botox for medical purposes in Canada, starting in 1983.

She used it first on patients with blepharospasm, a condition that causes facial muscle spasms that force eyelids shut.

Her practice blossomed after one of her patients noticed how the treatment induced a serene look on her face.

"She said, 'you know, I know I'm not spasming there, but every time you treat me there I get this beautiful, untroubled expression,'" Carruthers said.

Medical community 'uniformly horrified'

When Carruthers mentioned her patient's comment to her husband, dermatologist Dr. Alastair Carruthers, he was keen to see it too. 

He had been trying to treat his patients' wrinkles with collagen infusions, with little success. 

Swann became their first test subject for evaluating Botox's effect on wrinkles.

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