What Is Botox?
Also known as Botulinum Toxin Type A, Botox is produced by the bacterium Clostridium Botulinum. This protein is among the most toxic substances when ingested in large quantities. Botulism is a life-threatening form of food poisoning usually caused by improper handling of meat products.
During Botox treatment, the toxin is diluted to an FDA level that can safely be administered to humans. Pure liquids contain just enough toxins to cause paralysis of small muscles but not enough to cause botulism. As with many toxins, minute amounts can be put to use medicinally.
What Are Botulinum Toxin Uses (Botox)?
To reduce wrinkles, Botulinum toxin (botox) temporarily paralyzes facial muscles and decrease appearance of facial lines. It also treats certain medical conditions:
- Blepharospasm (uncontrollable blinking)
- Excessive underarm sweating
- Abnormal head position and neck pain
- Strabismus (misaligned eyes)
- Double vision
- Cervical dystonia (a neurological condition causing severe muscle contractions in the neck and shoulders)
- Muscle spasms in the arms, hands, and legs
- Migraine headaches
- Eyelid spasms
- Overactive bladder symptoms
Is Botox An Anti-Aging Treatment?
The application of Botox injections to remove facial wrinkles is one of the most popular cosmetic treatments in the US. It represents an annual industry totalling billions of dollars.
The demand for Botox injections continues to rise, making it the fastest-growing anti-aging treatment on the market. Although Botox was initially developed to treat eye spasms, however, it found an immediate niche in the beauty industry and was approved in 2002 for cosmetic purposes.
How Does Botulinum Toxin Remove Wrinkles?
Botox paralyzes facial muscles that create wrinkles. It prevents nerve cells from releasing acetylcholine. Acetylcholine transmits electrical impulses from the brain to the muscles, directing them to move. botox works by temporarily blocking nerve signals and muscle contraction.
After Botox injections, the muscles that cause wrinkling are temporarily out of order. The toxin paralyzes the muscles by inhibiting acetylcholine, so the appearance of wrinkles lessens or disappear.
The effects can last anywhere from 3-6 months. In addition, injections removes existing wrinkles or prevent new wrinkles from forming. These treatments should be are given continuously.
What Does Botox Treatment Involve?
The physician prepares the treatment areas with the anesthetic cream, after which several tiny injections of Botox are put into the wrinkle-causing muscles. Where these injections are put will depend on the location of the wrinkle-causing forces. The procedure takes about 30 minutes.
After a few days, frown-producing muscles are unable to contract. It’s impossible to frown even if you try. Paralyzed muscles gradually regain their mobility and, within six months, are again fully functional.
Originally used to treat frown lines between the eyebrows, Botox has expanded to treat crows’ feet lines, forehead lines, frown lines around the mouth, and even wrinkles on the neck.
What Are The Benefits?
Unlike invasive surgical treatments like face and eye lifts, Botulinum toxin treatment can achieve noticeable and sometimes dramatic results with a few injections, minimal pain, and no downtime.
Skin appears smoother and firmer, fine lines can disappear, and moderate to severe frown lines may be significantly become less. These results are most apparent within the first two weeks after treatment.
Regular injections are required to maintain the effect. But, sometimes these muscles can lose their ability to function over time, and Botox is no longer needed. On the other hand, the results of Botox can also become shorter over time if antibodies to the toxin develop.
Botox injections can be combined with injectable fillers like Hylaform and Sculptra. Hylaform is made of hyaluronic acid and gives the skin a youthful glow. Sculptra corrects for fat loss in the face, makes skin look thicker, and can improve the appearance of sunken eyes and cheeks. These correct fillers problems that Botox injections do not.
Side effects are generally minimal and short-lived. Although bruising, redness, numbness, swelling, and pain sometimes occur, they usually clear up within a few days. Allergic reactions are rare.
What’s The Downside?
One of the most significant downsides of Botox is the price. As of 2005, Botox treatments ranged from about $370 to $500, according to a survey conducted by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. 2-4 treatments may cost upwards of $2,000 per year in some cases. Most insurance companies do not cover cosmetic botox treatments.
Another drawback is that Botox won’t solve all wrinkle problems. Muscles only cause some wrinkles, not all. Wrinkles can result from sun exposure and smoking; others are due by loss of skin elasticity that results in saggy and baggy skin. While these problems can be treated by other means, Botox does nothing to help.
Finally, while Botox inhibits wrinkling, it also inhibits facial movement. You may be unable to lift your eyelids, squint, or frown.
Are There Other Side Effects?
In addition to pain, swelling, and bruising, side effects of Botox can include:
- Upset stomach
- Blurred vision
- Flu-like symptoms
- Muscle weakness
Most patients tolerate the treatments without distress, and if side effects occur, they generally clear up within a few days. Sometimes the toxin can cause temporary eyelid drooping, a crooked smile, severe forehead lines, and unevenness around the mouth. This generally happens when Botox use is way too much or when injections are incorrectly placed.
Botox contains donated human plasma that can be contaminated with viruses or infections. Although the plasma is tested and treated, there is still a small risk of contracting a disease.
Can I Get Botulism?
Although it’s rare, there is some risk of contracting botulism from Botox injections. This is more likely to occur when larger doses cause muscle spasms in the body.
It’s unusual for Botox to migrate from facial injection sites, but call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:
- Hoarse voice
- Severe muscle weakness
- Problems talking, breathing, or swallowing
- Vision problems
- Loss of bladder control
Who Should Not Use Botox?
- Anyone taking certain antibiotics or other drugs that block nerve impulses to the muscles
- Those with infections, swelling, or redness in the area where Botox is inserted
- People who are allergic or potentially allergic to Botox
Do not get Botox treatments from more than one physician at a time. Using Botox more frequently than prescribed will not increase its effectiveness and could result in serious side effects. Let your new physician know when you last received an injection if you switch doctors.
Be sure to tell your doctor if you suffer from any of the following:
- Lambert-Eaton Syndrome
- Asthma symptoms
- Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)
- Myasthenia Gravis
- Breathing disorders like asthma and emphysema
- Trouble swallowing
- Seizure disorders
- Heart disease
- Weakness in facial muscles like drooping eyelids
- A recently changed appearance of the face
These conditions may require an adjusted dose or special testing. Also, advise your doctor if:
- If you’ve recently had or will have surgery
- You’ve had other injections of botulinum toxin like Dysport or Myobloc
- Are you pregnant, breastfeeding, or are trying to get pregnant
It is presently unknown whether Botox harms unborn babies or contaminates breast milk.
Choosing A Doctor
It’s vital to choose a skilled, qualified, and experienced physician to perform your Botulinum toxin injection. Look for a medical office with a sterile environment and a professional manner. Consult with the doctor before scheduling a Botox treatment to determine whether the injections are right for you.