Beauty may be skin deep. But that doesn't stop people from spending a lot of money to improve their looks. While cosmetic surgery can certainly transform your external appearance, one must also pay heed to the risks before going ahead with the surgery.
Altering our bodies to alter or influence our perceptions, or those of others, is not a 20th century phenomenon. Cleopatra and her peers did it. However, it is only now that medical science has made it possible to use surgery for cosmetic purposes. The benefits derived from cosmetic surgery may range from correcting a birth defect, gaining self-esteem and improving professional opportunities. While the possibilities it can create are immense, so are the risks involved. It is, therefore, important that anyone going in for cosmetic surgery weighs the risks very carefully.
Cosmetic surgery can be used for various purposes, including tummy trimming, breast enlargements/reductions, nose enlargement, eyelid surgery and liposuction.
Generally, women who go in for cosmetic surgery do so in order to compensate for something they see themselves as lacking. This perceived deficiency may not necessarily be real, but when the woman compares herself with the ideal as seen by society, she feels the need to fill that need via surgery.
While plastic surgeons perform most of the procedures, surgeons with a background in other specialist areas also perform some cosmetic procedures. For example, ear, nose and throat surgeons perform rhinoplasties; ophthalmic surgeons do blepharoplasties; gynaecologists offer abdominoplasties
and dermatologists perform chemical peels. All doctors learn some surgery in their medical training. Therefore, anyone with a medical degree can legally perform cosmetic surgery.
In spite of the enormous expectations it fuels, cosmetic surgery does not always achieve positive results. There have been numerous cases of people who suffered on account of the complications arising from surgery and were emotionally devastated as a result. The risks associated with surgery have to be faced. These include bleeding, infection, respiratory problems, deep vein thrombosis (blood clots) and pulmonary embolism. Other risks are slow healing of wounds, tissue death or blood swelling, temporary or permanent scarring or disfigurement. In case of operations performed under anaesthesia, the risk increases. Patients must be prepared for additional treatment and hospitalisation.
TYPES OF COSMETIC SURGERY
Rhytidectomy (face lift):
Face-lifts should not be looked upon as a means to call a permanent halt to the aging process. At best, they can only temporarily delay it. Common aftereffects of this type of surgery are bruising, a temporary numbness or tightness in the face or neck and loss of skin sensitivity. Nerve damage can also take place, but this is rare.
Rhinoplasty (nose surgery):
This surgery requires a great deal of skill. Any change has to go well with the look of the face. If too much cartilage or bone is removed, the nose could look misshapen. The surgeon must ensure that surgery does not interfere with the functioning of the nose.
Blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery):
This surgery is performed to remove the excess skin and fat around the eyes. Common risks in this case are bruising and discolouration. If too much skin is removed, the patient faces the danger of the "white of the eye" showing. Dry eye syndrome (where the eyes stop producing tears) and drooping of the lower lid could also result. There can also be bleeding in the eye socket, causing blindness.
There are many ways in which this surgery can be performed. In one of these ways, small pieces of skin with healthy follicles are transplanted to bald spots. Common after effects of this method include pain, swelling, bruising and the formation of crusts on the scalp. In another way, the skin over a part of the bald scalp is removed and the skin with the hair is stretched and sutured together over this area. The patient could suffer discomfort and headaches. It is also possible to rotate wide strips of skin with hair to cover areas where the bald skin has been removed. Alternatively, the hair-bearing scalp tissue may be expanded so that the enlarged tissue can replace the bald area. These treatments carry with them the risk of damage to the tissue.
Silicone envelopes filled with saline solution, silicone gel or both are implanted to enlarge the breasts. The risks include the possibility of infection, hardening of the scar tissue surrounding the implant, formation of calcium deposits in the surrounding tissues, implant rupture or leak, and interference with breast-feeding and with the detection of breast cancer.
There is a risk of scarring and unevenness in breast size.
Abdominoplasty (tummy tuck):
In this type of surgery, excess and sagging skin and underlying fat is removed from the abdomen. It leaves a scar behind.
Collagen or fat is injected to treat facial wrinkles. Some people are allergic to collagen.
Chemical Peels and Dermabrasion:
These methods are used to treat scarring (resulting from acne or skin injury), skin wrinkles or splotchy pigmentation. It may cause temporary pain, swelling and redness.
This process is used to suction out unwanted fat. Unfortunate after effects include blood clots, fluid loss and infection. Some of the other complications that may arise are loss of skin sensitivity and vessel and nerve damage.
It is very important to ensure that a competent and experienced doctor performs the surgery. Prospective patients must find out as much as they can about cosmetic surgery. Here are some questions to be asked before you go ahead with the surgery.
What are the doctor's qualifications?
The increasing popularity of cosmetic surgery has attracted a number of quacks and unqualified doctors to the profession. Make sure the doctor who is performing surgery has a MBBS and an MS in Cosmetic Surgery.
How experienced the doctor is in cosmetic surgery especially in that particular type of surgery?
This is particularly important. The doctor may have performed cosmetic surgery earlier but the type of surgery may vary. You'll feel much better if you are certain that the doctor has prior experience in the kind of operation that you want to get done.
How many of his patients have needed additional surgery?
If most of his patients have needed additional surgery to help them recover, that could indicate the doctor's track record.
How much of that experience has been gained in the last one year?
In surgeries of this kind, it is essential for the doctor to have a great deal of experience in the kind of operation that you want.
Does the doctor have any before and after pictures of the surgeries he has performed?
This should give you a fairly good idea about what you are letting yourself in for. Not that this is a conclusive indication. There could always be a discrepancy between how other people react to a particular procedure and how you do.
What are the likely complications that can arise?
In the event of complications arising, what measures are available to ensure that things don't get out of control?
The hospital should be equipped to handle emergencies of any kind, especially those arising from surgeries that go awry. You shouldn't have to depend on the mercies of fate
How much will the operation cost? Will there be any need for post-operative surgery or care?
It is especially important to find out about all hidden costs. You might find the recovery costs exceeding the cost of the operation.
What are the potential side effects? How long will they last?
Find out if the side effects can be treated and how much treatment will cost.
How soon can physical activity be resumed?
Certain surgeries may not permit you to indulge in hectic activity. It is best to get the doctor to clarify, which activities are permissible and which ones are a strict no-no.
Remember to ask every question that occurs to you, no matter how silly it sounds. Never trust any doctor who does not take your fears seriously or who tries to assure you that the operation is completely safe. Especially, be wary of doctors who suggest that you alter those of your features that you are perfectly happy with. Not all the advice they proffer may be worth following. Cosmetic surgery is a rapidly growing industry, which has attracted considerable success in recent years. It has, therefore, attracted its fair share of charlatans and bogus doctors, who see an opportunity to make quick money.
Looks and overall appearances influence our perceptions and opinions to a large extent. So cosmetic surgery carries with it the baggage of expectations and hopes. As persons at the receiving end of this treatment, we need to be realistic about what we expect surgery to do for us. Cosmetic surgery cannot achieve miracles.