Skin Care Tips
A Guide to Botox
We’ve all heard about it in the news, on TV, in movies, and from friends. Botox is supposed to be the magical cure for fine lines and wrinkles in the skin. But what is Botox, and what should you know before deciding to try it?
What is Botox?
Botox is actually the brand name of a toxin produced by the bacterium clostridium botulinum. In fact, most people know of the toxin as the cause of botulism, a disease from food poisoning that often causes paralysis.
But after much research the toxin has now been controlled, and is used to human advantage. When injected in small, diluted amounts directly into specific muscles, Botox no longer acts as a poison. Instead, it serves as a controlled muscle relaxant, lasting for several months, and reducing the appearance of wrinkles.
The drug was FDA approved and has been in use to treat ailments such as blepharospasm (uncontrolled blinking) and strabismus (lazy eye) since the late 1980s, and to treat wrinkles and facial creases since 2002.
Today, Botox is a well-known medicine, and comes in two forms: Botox, and Botox Cosmetic. The former is used to treat medical problems, and the latter primarily to decrease the appearance of facial wrinkles.
So, what exactly does Botox do?
Botox is a controlled process of targeted muscle paralysis. Basically, the Botox injection blocks signals from the nerves to the muscles, disabling them from contracting. The results can be for therapeutic purposes, relaxing chronically tight or spastic muscles, but treatments are more commonly used for cosmetic purposes. This involves softening wrinkles to decrease the appearance of forehead lines, crow’s feet, and frown lines. Unfortunately, wrinkles that are caused by sun damage or gravity do not respond to Botox.
Botox has also been approved by the FDA to treat cervical dystonia (neck pain and abnormal head positioning associated with severe muscle spasms of the neck), strabismus (lazy eye), blepharospasm (twitching of the eyelids), muscle stiffness in elbows, wrists, and fingers, upper limb spasticity (muscle tightness in the upper arms) and even excessive underarm sweating, by weakening the action of the sweat glands, rather than muscles.
Botox has also been used to treat conditions such as back pain, headaches, bladder dysfunction, and pelvic floor problems, but these treatments have not been thoroughly researched, and thus cannot yet be considered standard therapy.
How do I prepare?
First, consult with your doctor to make sure Botox is right for you. Your skin type, thickness, and degree of wrinkling, as well as medical history, all contribute to determining whether Botox injections will be effective for you. Patients that are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have neurological diseases should not use Botox. You should be extremely selective in choosing a skilled and properly certified doctor to advise you on the procedure and best determine if Botox suits your needs and health.
Patients preparing for Botox treatment should avoid alcohol consumption for at least one week prior to the treatment. Aspirin and any other kind of anti-inflammatory medication should not be taken for at least two weeks prior to the procedure to avoid bruising
What can I expect?
Having Botox injections is a quick procedure, lasting just ten or fifteen minutes, from which patients report only minor discomfort. Generally, no anesthesia is required, but your doctor may prescribe medicine to numb the area, depending on your individual situation.
During the process, a fine needle is inserted into the skin or muscle, and extremely small amounts of Botox are injected. Only the specific muscles requiring treatment are targeted, and the results will take full effect three to seven days following the procedure. If you’re receiving Botox treatment for excessive underarm sweating, injections are given in the skin under your arms.
After receiving Botox, little downtime is required. You can resume your normal activities directly after the procedure, but should avoid rubbing or massaging the treated areas, to avoid the toxin migrating to other areas.
The effects of Botox usually last between four and six months. As muscle action gradually returns, the lines and wrinkles begin to re-appear, and need to be treated with another dose of Botox. On the bright side, lines and wrinkles that have been treated with Botox, often re-appear less severe, as they are being trained to relax throughout the process.
Are there any risks involved?
As with any medical procedure, negative side effects and complications can occur. The risks associated with Botox treatments, however, are relatively few. In fact, when performed by an experienced doctor, Botox is an extremely safe procedure.
The most common side effects are temporary bruising at the injection site and, extremely rarely, headaches, which generally disappear within 24-48 hours. A small percentage of patients may develop eyelid drooping if the Botox moves around. Though this condition usually disappears after several weeks, patients should not rub the treated area for at least 12 hours, or lay down for 3-4 hours following the procedure.
Some more serious side effects that, if they persist, should be mentioned to your doctor, include: pain and bruising at the injection site, redness, itching, headache, nausea, muscle weakness, or increased body sweat. Allergic reaction, characterized by itching, swelling, or trouble breathing, eye pain, bleeding or bruising, blistering of the skin, flu-like symptoms, chest, face, or neck pain, or seizures are extremely rare, but possible, following Botox injections.
There is also an extremely slight chance that patients treated with Botox may develop botulism-like signs and symptoms if the botulinum toxin spreads to other parts of the body. This condition, however, is extremely unlikely.
When will I notice results?
When using Botox to treat conditions such as wrinkles or twitching eyelids, results will take effect after just a few days. The full effect, however, usually takes about two weeks. For other conditions, such as lazy eye, results may not appear until one or two weeks following the procedure.
It is important to note that the results of Botox are not permanent. After about four to six months, the effects will begin to fade, and follow-up injections must be given to maintain the treatment.