Botox is a brand name for a form of botulinum toxin type A, also known as onabotulinumtoxinA. Botulinum toxin type A is made by a bacterium that causes food poisoning, or botulism. If injections of a toxin into your body makes you nervous, you are not alone. While small doses of Botox act as a muscle relaxant, and can be used to smooth or make facial lines less apparent, there is still doubt about whether these injections actually may travel to other parts of the body. Read on to see if the benefits offered by Botox outweigh the risks.
How Botox Works
Botulinum toxin type A is one of seven toxins produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, and is a component, and the important, active ingredient in Botox. Within the motor nerve, Botox breaks apart Synaptosomal-associated protein 25 (SNAP-25), which prevents the release of acetylcholine (ACh), a neurotransmitter. Because the release of (ACh) is blocked in the space between the nerve, and the muscle, signaling is lost, and muscles are paralyzed. Breaking apart SNAP-25 also blocks the release of neuropeptides which are primarily involved in the transmission of pain.
There are currently two types of Botox. Botox Cosmetic is the form used for facial aesthetics. It is approved by the Food And Drug Administration (FDA) to cosmetically treat moderate to severe frown lines in between eyebrows, but is also used by doctors to treat crows feet around the sides of the eye, and forehead wrinkles. It has been used around the mouth area, and in the lips as well.
Botox (not Cosmetic Botox) is approved by the FDA to treat a myriad of different medical problems such as:
- cervical dystonia (neck pain associated with severe muscle spasms)
- strabismus (lazy or crossed eyes)
- blepharospasm (twitching of the eyelid)
- upper limb spasticity
- chronic migraines
- hyperhidrosis (excessive underarm sweating).
Preparing And Procedure
Consultation with the doctor who will be performing the Botox injection is very important along with researching, and reviewing results of previous patients. Your medical history should be discussed, as well as any medications you have or are currently taking. If you are taking a blood thinning medication such as aspirin, Plavix, Coumadin, or Heparin, your doctor may tell you to cease taking these two weeks prior to the injections. Discussing expectations is important also. Determining the effectiveness of Botox injections will depend on skin type, thickness, and degree of wrinkling.
If it is determined that Botox can work for you, and is medically safe for your health, the area to be injected may be numbed. An extremely thin needle is then used to inject very tiny amounts of Botox into specific muscles. The number of injections will depend on the extent of the area being treated, the skin type, the severity of wrinkles and location on the face. The procedure takes approximately 10-15 minutes, and is usually completed in the doctor’s office.
There is relatively little down time, but you may experience bruising or other minor side effects. It is suggested that you do not lay down for 3-4 hours after the injection, and do not rub or massage the treated areas for at least 12 hours after injections. Results are usually visible within a few days to 2 weeks. If you experience symptoms many hours or weeks after the injection, this may indicate that the toxin may be spreading to other parts of your body, causing botulism symptoms, and this needs to be treated immediately.
Botox Benefits And Risks Explored
- Cosmetic Botox – Temporary and subtle cosmetic smoothing of facial lines and wrinkles with very little down time, and little cost, compared to facelifts.
- Botox: Treats tight or spastic muscles
- Pain and bruising at site of injections
- Redness and itching
- Temporary muscle weakness (very serious if muscles weaken over entire body)
- Increased body sweat
- Blurred or different vision
- Difficulty speaking, swallowing or breathing
- Loss of bladder control
- Allergic reaction (itching, swelling, tightness in the chest, difficulty breathing)
- Pain, bleeding, or bruising around the eyes
- Blistering, peeling, or severe skin rash
- Flu-like symptoms
- Face or neck pain
Weighing The Benefits
Botox is relatively safe, when injected by a properly certified, skilled, and experienced doctor. This is why research is so important in choosing a doctor. Botox will not eliminate wrinkles, and the effect lasts from 3-6 months, so follow-up injections will be necessary. Botox will also not reverse wrinkling caused by sun damage. You are advised not to use Botox if you are pregnant, or breast feeding, due to unknown side-effects to the baby. Botox may also be restricted for patients with neurological disorders.
Because of the manner in which Botox works, a very tiny amount in the precise facial muscle is used, and it can be harmful if the more is better approach is taken. Some studies have shown that Botox may indeed travel from the location injected, to other parts of the body. Because of this, the product had to include a black box warning, indicating possible side effects of this drug, or overdoses. It must be noted also, that when using Botox around the mouth, the muscles will become paralyzed, causing difficulty in speaking and eating.
Botox has been approved for commercial use since 1989, and has had relatively few major incidents with use, however it depends on the amount used, and the skill of the doctor who administers the injections. The reviews have been mixed, and very personal. The summary seems to be that less is more in both expectations, and Cosmetic Botox quantity used. Patients who shared reviews of their Cosmetic Botox experiences, were thrilled when their initial expectations were lower than the outcome, and appreciated a subtle difference. Those who wanted a facelift from Botox were extremely disappointed with their results.
The patients who received many injections at once, experienced discomfort, and swelling more often than those who had only one or two simultaneously. Patients who had injections around the mouth area, generally were not as pleased with the outcome, and were either somewhat paralyzed, or the injections were uneven. Summary of the reviews seemed to be that it is better to inject less, expect less, and get a very qualified doctor to administer the injections. Chances are, you will not experience any side effects, and you will really like the results, but when you try to intervene with the aging process, the benefits should exceed the risks.