Botox: More Than Just a Wrinkle Treatment

In this modern age of selfies, celebrities and not looking your true age, Botox can be the answer for men and women who hate their wrinkles. But this popular non-surgical treatment is a lot more complex than just a needle to the forehead.

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What is Botox?

Believe it or not, Botox is an ultra purified form of botulinum toxin A, the most lethal toxin known to man with a median lethal dose of 1.3-2.1 ng/kg (intravenously or intramuscularly). It’s produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum and can cause a condition known as botulism, with symptoms including blurred vision, slurred speech and muscle weakness, with extreme cases leading to the paralysis of the intercostal muscles.

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Image Credit: NHS

Why is this toxin used in medicine?

This is a good question, especially given the minuscule lethal dose. But, because of its neurotoxic effects, it can make an ideal treatment for muscular disorders.

Migraines: About 15% of the population suffer from migraines, but Botox treatments on the NHS are reserved for only the most severe cases (having migraines for 15 or more days of the month). What isn’t known, however, is how exactly Botox works to prevent a migraine attack. It’s thought that instead of paralysing and relaxing affected muscles, the Botox instead blocks the release of certain neurotransmitters, which in turn blocks the feelings of pain.

Strabismus: This condition, which is better known as a squint, occurs when the one or possibly both of the eyes turn inwards, sometimes in an attempt to compensate for poor vision (such as short-sightedness) or because an underlying congenital condition. In this instance, Botox can be used to re-align the eyes by being injected into the muscles that control eye movement. Because of the muscle relaxation, the eye can be allowed to move back to its normal position, though this usually only lasts for about three months before it wears off, thus making Botox a temporary treatment that can be used before permanent corrective surgery.

Essential Tremor: This neurological condition, sometimes mistakenly considered to be Parkinson’s Disease, causes rhythmic shaking in different areas of the body, with a common area being the hands. The tremors can occur when carrying out everyday tasks such as holding objects or writing and aren’t considered to be dangerous, though the incidences can increase over time. In the case of head or vocal tremors, Botox can be administered in order to prevent muscle movement.

Excessive Sweating: For those who suffer from excessive sweating, Botox can block the signals from the brain to the sweat glands, with individual treatments lasting for around 8 months.

Overactive Bladder: This affects around 20% of people, with most of them being women over the age of 40. By injecting Botox into the wall of the bladder, patients have stated that their symptoms have been drastically reduced, with the urge to suddenly pass urine being decreased from around half a dozen times a day to only around once a day. This form of Botox treatment has been found to last for around six months at a time.

 

As you can see from the list above, the non-cosmetic uses for Botox can cover a variety of different conditions (you can see a bigger list here). But, just like cosmetic treatments, the effects of Botox eventually wear off, meaning that it is only a temporary treatment.

Botox…it’s actually more than just a wrinkle treatment!

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2 Comments

  1. Interesting stuff often we find small or very small doses of poisons are effectively used in medicine. Nothing is deadly if diluted sufficiently. Arsenic has been taken to make the nails and skin shine.
    Some chemicals are cumlative poisons and others such as recreational drugs lose their effectiveness if contiually taken.

  2. That’s a very good point, BBC4 did a whole series called “Pain, Pus and Poison: The Search for Modern Medicines” and that explored the same ideas of using poisons for medicine and cosmetics. Then there’s finding new uses for drugs that were deemed too dangerous for their original purpose, such as Thalidomide, which is now used to treat certain cancers such as multiple myeloma.

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