Botox is the brand name of a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium
botulinum. In large amounts, this toxin can cause botulism, which you
probably associate with food poisoning. Despite the fact that one of the most
serious complications of botulism is paralysis, scientists have discovered a way
to use it to human advantage. Small, diluted amounts can be directly injected
into specific muscles causing controlled weakening of the muscles.
The FDA approved such usage in the late 1980s upon the discovery that Botox
could stop ailments like blepharospasm (uncontrolled blinking) and strabismus
(lazy eye). Cosmetic physicians have been using Botox for years to successfully
treat wrinkles and facial creases. In April 2002, Botox gained FDA approval for
treatment of moderate-to-severe frown lines between the eyebrows – called
glabellar lines. But Botox is often used for other areas of the face as well.
How does Botox work?
Botox blocks signals from the nerves to the muscles.
The injected muscle can no longer contract as forcefully, which causes the wrinkles to relax
and soften. It is most often used on forehead lines, crow’s feet (lines around
the eye), and frown lines. Wrinkles caused by sun damage and gravity will not
respond to Botox.
How is the procedure performed?
The procedure takes only a few minutes and no anesthesia is required. Botox
is injected with a fine needle into specific muscles with only minor discomfort.
It generally takes three to seven days to take full effect. It is best to avoid
alcohol at least one week prior to treatment. Aspirin and anti-inflammatory
medications should be stopped two weeks before treatment as well in order to
How long does a Botox injection last?
The effects of Botox will last four to six months. As muscle action
gradually returns, the lines and wrinkles begin to re-appear and wrinkles need
to be re-treated. The lines and wrinkles often appear less severe with time
because the muscles are being trained to relax.
What are the side effects of Botox?
Temporary bruising is the most common side effect. Headaches, which resolve
in 24 to 48 hours, can occur, but this is rare. A very small percentage of patients may
develop eyelid drooping, which usually disappears in three weeks. The eyelid
drooping is usually caused by migration of the Botox. For this reason, you shouldn’t
rub the treated area for 12 hours after injection or lay down for three to four hours.
There have been no allergic reactions associated with Botox to date.
Who should not receive Botox injection?
Patients who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have a neurological disease
should not use Botox. Since Botox doesn’t work for all wrinkles, a
consultation with a doctor is recommended.
Will my insurance pay for it?
Botox is not generally covered by insurance
when used for cosmetic purposes. Check with your insurance carrier for coverage
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