Let’s start with a little trivia: Did you know that Botulinum toxin, more popularly known today as Botox, is a protein and neurotoxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum? Yes, it is true my friends, this widely used substance is actually secreted by a microogranism found in spoiled food. Botox is also considered as one of the most poisonous naturally occurring substances in the world.
Although toxic, Botox is also used in the field of health science and has widespread applications in medicine too. Botox was first approved for therapeutic use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December 1989 to treat a variety of conditions, including strabismus, blepharospasm, and hemifacial spasm. Recent studies have also shown that Botox may also treat upper motor neuron syndrome, excessive sweating or hyperhidrosis, as well as cervical dystonia and cervical migraine. But Botox is more commonly used in a different setting nowadays.
The injection of Botox has become very applicable for cosmetic purposes. It is a non-surgical, physician-administered treatment that can temporarily reduce moderate to severe frown lines between the brows. It also aims to reduce wrinkles and rejuvenate the aging face as well. Because of these applications, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has then approved the use of Botox for treating frown lines in adults younger than 65.
So how does Botox work? We know it is poisonous but how come it used so much? How is it that the FDA even approved its use for cosmetic purposes?
When a small amount of Botox is injected into a muscle, it blocks the nuerochemical messages that make your muscles contract. In addition to blocking nerve signals, Botox also prevents the release of acetylcholine at the neuromuscular junction, thereby rendering the muscle unable to contract for a period of three to six months. Another noticeable effect is that it temporarily weakens or paralyzes the facial muscles and smoothens or eliminates wrinkles, which is what most patients want in the first place. However, as stated, results are only temporary and you may have to return for injections every three to six months to maintain the effects.
The use of Botox is safe as long as it is administered properly by a licensed physician, specifically a dermatologist or a plastic surgeon. It is only toxic if injected somewhere where muscles should not be stunned, such as the chest or the neck. Also, as stated earlier, Botox has widespread therapeutic use and its highly monitored application is the reason for its FDA approval. Isn’t it just amazing and a little bit ironic how a toxic substance can actually be used in the practice of medicine?