The trendy cosmetic drug has in fact been used medically for 30 years…
A lot of people only know about Botox® from reading about celebrities with smooth, doll-like faces that belie their years. But Botox® has been used for years for “proper” medicine – and one day you may need it!
Botox® – What is it really?
Botox® is actually a brand name for a medicine made from the poison which causes botulism – Botulinum Toxin. Other companies do make similar medicine, but Botox® is used so much more than the other products that most people, including doctors, use the name when they mean any product.
Botulism – Isn’t that dangerous?
Botulism paralyses muscles, but in tiny amounts Botulinum Toxin can reduce spasm (painful cramping) of certain muscles. Because the amounts are so tiny and injected only where they’re needed, side effects are uncommon, tend to be mild and only effect a small area of muscle. On average, the effect of Botulinum Toxin can be seen within 3 to 10 days and wears off within a period of 3 to 4 months.
Over 30 years ago, a scientist started using absolutely tiny doses to treat muscles that had tensed up permanently when they weren’t supposed to. Twenty years ago, the first medical use of Botulinum Toxin was approved, and it’s now been approved in the UK for the medical treatment of several conditions (getting rid of wrinkles isn’t a medical treatment!).
What does it treat?
Most medical uses for Botulinum Toxin are for muscle spasm. They include cerebral palsy in children and uncontrolled spasm of the eyelid muscles (blepharospasm). Other important ones for adults are:
• Cervical Dystonia – This spasm of the neck muscles affects over 40,000 people the the UK. It turns your neck to one side and makes it hard for you to hold your head in a normal position. Botulinum Toxin injections are effective at relieving the spasm, helping apprearance, easing pain and making day-to-day activities much easier.
• Arm Muscle Spasm After Stroke – One in 3 people who have a stroke develop a spasticity – tensing up of muscles without wanting to. Often these symptoms are mild, but sometimes they can cause severe pain and problems with using a particular part of the body. Botulinum Toxin can relieve both of these problems.
• Chronic Migraine – This is the most recently approved use for Botulinum Toxin. However it’s only given for people who suffer with migraine on at least half of days, and then only if several other treatments have failed.
• Excess Sweating – This may not sound serious, but it can be very distressing. Botulinum Toxin is one of several treatments.
• Urinary Urgency – the Botulinum Toxin is adminstered under anaesthetic to selectively paralize an irritable,crampy over active bladder muscle, allowing the bladder muscle to retrain its habits and lessens the need for ongoing medication to manage this problem.
Is it for me?
It isn’t for everyone and needs to be given by a doctor who is trained in the field. Talk to your GP if you happen to have one of these conditions.