• Botulism: Killer or Wonder Drug?

    IMAGE What do wrinkles and muscle tics have in common? Both are caused by repeated or inappropriate muscle activity and both can be treated using the same drug, Botox.
    With such wide-ranging effects, Botox may sound like a wonder drug. Nevertheless, it is actually short for botulinum toxin —one of the deadliest food poisons known to humankind. Some may remember the infamous Bon Vivant soup incident, in which cans of vichyssoise infected with the botulinum toxin killed unsuspecting soup lovers. However, the same quality that can make botulism lethal—its ability to paralyze muscles—makes it therapeutic when used in carefully controlled doses.

    All Kinds of Relief

    Botox is used to treat a variety of muscular disorders. It is the drug of choice for the neuromuscular condition, dystonia. In dystonia, particular muscles contract inappropriately. The classic form of dystonia involves the neck, and is called torticollis . Other common forms involve spasms of the eyelids (blepharospasm), half of the face ( hemifacial spasm ), and vocal cords (spasmodic dysphonia).
    Unlike muscle strain or tendonitis, dystonia is a neurologic disorder in which the brain incorrectly signals muscles to go into an abnormal contraction, which can result in muscle pain and spasm.
    When Botox is injected directly into a contracted muscle, it is weakened and cannot contract, restoring balance to the group of muscles involved in a particular movement and relieving symptoms for a period of months.
    Doctors have used Botox to correct a variety of conditions involving inappropriate muscle and gland activity with varying degrees of success. They include:
    • Eye muscle spasms —Patients with limited eye closure and spasms that prevented them from driving (blepharospasm) have been very successfully treated with Botox.
    • Spasticity —Botox can be helpful in controlling spasticity due to stroke , head injury, multiple sclerosis , or congenital cerebral palsy .
    • Esophageal disorders —When the lower sphincter muscle of the esophagus fails to relax and allow food to pass into the stomach, Botox can be an effective treatment.
    • Excess sweating —Botox injected into the skin can control overactive sweat glands, but it can be difficult to treat a widespread area.
    • Neurological bladder dysfunction —Botox may be helpful for bladder problems caused by nerve dysfunction.
    • Headaches —Botox may be useful for treatment of a variety of headache disorders including migraines , tension-type headaches , and chronic daily headaches.

    Wrinkle Treatment

    Frown. Smile. Grimace. Grin. Every facial expression forms a crease that will someday be etched in the skin as a wrinkle. You can't stop moving your face, but you can limit movement in key places using Botox. As a result of its successful use with facial tics, plastic surgeons discovered that Botox can smooth out wrinkles in places where muscle activity has a particularly noticeable effect. Botox is used to treat wrinkles in two places: frown lines between the eyebrows, where it is most effective, and crow's feet. As Botox restricts muscle movement, it creates a smoother appearance even if it does not remove all traces of the wrinkle.

    How Does It Work?

    Tiny quantities of the toxin are injected directly into the muscles of facial expression. The treated muscles weaken over the course of two weeks and the person is no longer able to contract the frown muscles. They can still lift their eyebrows normally and blink without problems. The injection is almost painless.
    Not surprisingly, younger patients—whose lines are not as deep—experience the greatest improvements. Results last up to 4 months. You can receive injections every 3–4 months to maintain the results.

    Side Effects Are Uncommon

    Side effects have not been a problem in using Botox for treating wrinkles or other conditions, aside from the occasional allergic reaction or temporary excessive muscle weakness. Some people have a slight headache for several hours after treatment. The most common significant complication, which is rare, is ptosis. This is a drooping of the eyelid caused by the Botox tracking into the eyelid muscle. It generally lasts just a few days, but more prolonged weakness is possible. Botox injections cannot be used during pregnancy or when breastfeeding.
    If you decide to undergo Botox treatment, be sure that you receive your care from a reputable physician highly experienced in the use of this substance. From quelling muscle spasms to smoothing out skin, Botox can be an effective treatment for many people if used properly.

    RESOURCES

    American Society of Plastic Surgeons http://www.plasticsurgery.org

    United States Food and Drug Administration http://www.fda.gov

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    The Canadian Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery http://www.csaps.ca/

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/index%5Fe.html

    References

    About Botox Cosmetic. Botox Cosmetic website. http://www.botoxcosmetic.com/Home.aspxAccessed May 10, 2012.

    Botulinum toxin injections—cosmetic. EBSCO Patient Education Reference Center website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/pointofcare/perc-about. Updated September 1, 2011. Accessed May 10, 2012.

    Botulinum toxin injections—medical. EBSCO Patient Education Reference Center website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/pointofcare/perc-about. Updated September 1, 2011. Accessed May 10, 2012.

    Botulinum toxin type A. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated April 18, 2012. Accessed May 10, 2012

    Botox injections. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/botox/MY00078/DSECTION=why-its-done. Published October 27, 2010. Accessed May 10, 2012.

    Charles PD. Botulinum neurotoxin serotype A: a clinical update on non-cosmetic uses. Am J Health Syst Pharm . 2004 Nov 15;61(22 Suppl 6):S11-23.

    Dystonia movement disorders. EBSCO Patient Education Reference Center website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/pointofcare/perc-about. Updated November 15, 2010. Accessed May 10, 2012.

    Evers S, Vollmer-Haase J, Schwaag S, et al. Botulinum toxin A in the prophylactic treatment of migraine—a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Cephalalgia. 2004; 24:838.

    Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/ . Accessed July 17, 2003.

    Relja M, Poole AC, Schoenen J, et al. A multicentre, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel group study of multiple treatments of botulinum toxin type A (BoNTA) for the prophylaxis of episodic migraine headaches. Cephalalgia. 2007; 27:492.

    Report blames Florida botulism cases on misused toxins. Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy website. Available at: http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/content/bt/botulism/news/dec1504botulism.html . Accessed May 16, 2005.

    Shukla HD, Sharma SK. Clostridium botulinum: a bug with beauty and weapon. Crit Rev Microbiol . 2005;31(1):11-8.

    Silberstein S, Mathew N, Saper J, Jenkins S. Botulinum toxin type A as a migraine preventive treatment. For the BOTOX Migraine Clinical Research Group. Headache . 2000; 40:445.

    Troost BT. Botulinum toxin type A (Botox) in the treatment of migraine and other headaches. Expert Rev Neurother . 2004;4(1):27-31.

    Wheeler AH. Botulinum toxin A: adjunctive therapy for refractory headaches associated with pericranial muscle tension. Headache . 1998; 38:468.

    Revision Information

  • Join WellZones today.

    Make a Change For LifeLearn more

    Wellmont LiveWell is creating a new tradition of wellness in the mountains by providing individuals with tools and encouragement to live healthier lifestyles.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    HeartSHAPE® Test Learn more

    Fight heart disease early and prevent heart attacks with HeartSHAPE® - a painless, non-invasive test that takes pictures of your heart to scan for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.


  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.