Paradoxical Effects in Medicine
Imagine you finally went through with the laser hair removal you have always wanted to do. But, instead of removing those annoying hairs on your shoulders, more hair grows in those areas. This is a rare but real problem for approximately 1% of individuals who get laser hair removal. This unusual phenomenon has confused medical professionals for years as well as the patients that receive these treatments. This unfortunate outcome can cause a lot of distress since not only will the hair they wanted removed likely grow back, but additional unwanted hair will grow as well. Although it is unknown why exactly this happens, studies have found that it is more common in individuals with darker skin and black hair. Possible explanations for this phenomenon involve the activation of dormant hair follicles or the synchronization of hair follicle growth causing the appearance of thicker hair. This phenomenon can also happen in other areas of medicine as well.
CoolSculpting has been a popular method of removing unwanted fat in a minimally invasive way. By freezing the subcutaneous fat, these cells break down and are flushed from the body through the lymphatic system. However, in 0.00051% of individuals, CoolSculpting can actually cause fat cells to grow. This unfortunately causes fat cells to bulge at the site of treatment. Patients who are affected by this rare complication see it occur after repeated treatments. Often, they are pleased with the results at first but see a recurrence of fat in the areas that were treated. The reason for this occurring is largely unknown as doctors can only speculate on how this occurs. Some think that as CoolSculpting targets the fat under the skin, the deeper fat pad undergoes a reflex-like overgrowth. The fat that regrows in this area is much firmer than normal fat and causes a bulging appearance. Luckily, most of the time this condition can be treated. A plastic surgeon can remove this fat either through liposuction or direct removal allowing for the patient to acquire their desired look.
The paradoxical effect doesn’t just apply to procedures but to medications as well. It has been observed that for some people a medication can elicit the opposite of what would typically be expected. For example, benzodiazepines, more commonly known as Xanax, are typically used to treat anxiety and insomnia. However, in 1% of patients, benzodiazepines can actually cause increased excitement and excessive movement. Like most cases with the paradoxical effect, the cause is unclear. Interestingly it has been found that there may be a genetic link that may cause this condition to occur in some individuals. It has also been found that individuals with a history of substance abuse or psychological distress may be more prone to suffering from this. The paradoxical effect has also been seen in other drugs like Benadryl, Buspirone, and even caffeine. Although the likelihood of experiencing this are very low, it is important to be knowledgeable of the potential risks.
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