Frequently Turning Red Can Cost You Your Confidence And Career
Most of us know the feeling as blood floods hotly to our cheeks in a moment of embarrassment, nervousness or shame. But for excessively sensitive types who blush easily and often, simply anticipating a situation that could provoke it causes anxiety, prompting them to avoid other people and turn down dates, speaking engagements and even offers of promotion.
Now an operation promises permanent relief. With an endoscopic transthoracic sympathectomy (ETS) a surgeon puts you under general anesthetic and makes a small incision under each armpit. Entering your chest cavity with an endoscope (a tiny camera on a tube) the surgeon then cuts, clamps or cauterizes the specific ganglia (nerve beads) of the sympathetic nerve system that trigger the blood flow responsible for facial blushing. It’s usually over in 15 to 30 minutes and you can return home in a day.
An ETS is mostly done not for blushing but to prevent excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) of the palms, armpits and occasionally the face. It’s been done for over 15 years to treat sweating.
From international sympathectomy conferences it’s clear that ETS is not performed commonly for blushing, even overseas. It’s probably a matter of people finding out about it and requesting it.
Should you try it?
The decision should depend on the severity of your blushing, its impact on your life, its causes and whether you have explored other options, say the surgeons. You should first consult your doctor and perhaps a psychologist.
Blushing comes from fear of scrutiny and recalling past negative embarrassing incidents. This results in an automatic fight-or-flight response and a symptom of this adrenaline spurt is to blush. Excessive blushing can have physical or psychological causes. The physical can include an overactive thyroid gland and certain drugs. Psychological causes of severe or ‘pathological’ blushing include anxiety and confidence issues. These can worsen with time, as the anticipation of blushing makes you increasingly anxious and prone to it.
If the causes of your blushing are psychological, various methods may work, but an ETS can still be beneficial because you no longer have to fear that you may blush.
Like any surgery, an ETS may have side effects, such as complication of bleeding or infection, though these are rare. The most common side effect is compensatory hyperhidrosis – excessive sweating on the back and chest, seen in about 20% of patients. It usually subsides but may persist.
Neurosurgeons warn that it can also produce Horner’s syndrome: drooping of the eyelid, a small pupil, reddening of the white of the eyes and a partially blocked nose from swollen mucosa. This abates somewhat but never really clears up. For these reasons many doctors don’t advise the operation.
Bottom line? If blushing is keeping people from living fully, ETS could be an answer in select cases. But, surgery should be a last resort.
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