Kevin McLaughlin

Botox: What It Is and How It Works

Botox What It Is and How It WorksBotox is a word that’s become ubiquitous in recent years, but many people are still not aware of what exactly it is.

What is Botox?

Put simply, it involves injecting botulinum toxin A into the muscles of the face so they can’t move. If they can’t move, they can’t develop wrinkles. The toxin blocks the signal that causes facial muscles to contract and that contracting is what leads to wrinkles. Botox was approved by the FDA in 2002. Prior to that, it had been used to treat only severe medical conditions.

Patients who undergo the procedure report that it is anywhere from two to four days before they see any results and then the results typically last for anywhere from four to six months.

Botox has become something of a trend in recent years. Some people even have “Botox parties,” where women, and even men, meet for cocktails and undergo the procedure together. However, physicians strongly recommend against this as it is a medical process that should be performed only under controlled conditions. Doctors also feel that reducing it to a social gathering undermines the seriousness of undergoing a procedure that does involve injecting a toxin, which can cause serious illness if not carried out properly.

How It Works

The procedure itself is a simple one, requiring no anesthetic. The doctor administrating the Botox uses a fine needle to minimize the patient’s discomfort. They do recommend that patients do not consume any alcohol for a week following the injection. They also urge patients that for at least two weeks, they should avoid taking aspirin or any other anti-inflammatory medication to minimize the bruising that may develop after receiving the Botox injection.

The Potential Side Effects

While it may be a simple procedure, Botox does have side effects. Besides bruising, it may also cause headaches, respiratory infections, flu-like symptoms, the drooping of eyelids, nausea, and heartburn.

Another downside reported by some doctors is that in a few cases, patients have become hooked on Botox, leading to a condition that’s been dubbed “wrinklerexia,” where patients undergo the procedure every time they perceive they have a wrinkle. The constant Botox injections leave their faces with a frozen, mask-like appearance.

What You Need to Know

Botox can be an alternative to costly facelift procedures for individuals in their 30s and early 40s since at this point in a person’s life, there are usually minimal signs of aging. Botox injections can smooth any fine lines and shallow wrinkles that may have just started to develop.

But Botox isn’t just for people looking to fight the signs of aging. The procedure also has positive benefits for people suffering from serious medical conditions. Botox has been used in the treatment of patients suffering from everything from muscular disorders to chronic joint pain.

Additionally, Botox has also proved effective in the treatment of patients suffering from overactive bladders, enlarged prostates, and even depression. It has been reported that injecting Botox directly into the frown lines of patients suffering from clinical depression eliminates symptoms.

It should be noted that botulinum toxin A, the chemical used in Botox injections, is related to botulism, a form of food poisoning that occurs when you eat something containing the neurotoxin produced by the bacterium called Clostridium botulinum. Botulism can cause paralysis. However, the botulinum toxin A used in Botox, besides being a completely different strand of the bacterium, is also diluted, so as not to cause any severe side effects associated with botulism.

When done responsibly and by a professional, Botox can actually be a safe and effective way to reverse the visible signs of aging. It works best on lighter wrinkles so if you’re interested in trying Botox, you’re more likely to see better results if you start it when wrinkles first begin to surface.

Sources:
Finzi, E., et al., “Treatment of Depression with Botulinum Toxin A: A Case Series,” Dermatologic Survey 2006; 32; doi: 10.1111/j.1524-4725.2006.32136.x.
“What Is Botox? How Does Botox Work?,” Medical News Today web site; https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/158647.php, last accessed June 18, 2013.



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