Botox – proper name botulinum toxin – is a potentially lethal toxin produced naturally by a bacteria associated with food poisoning.
In large doses, it can kill, but in very small doses, it has become known as a treatment for reducing wrinkles.
It was discovered that injecting the substance into the skin can block and temporarily relax muscles in the face, smoothing wrinkles until the effect of the toxin wears off. Although it has only been licensed for cosmetic purposes since 2002, Botox has been used to treat some medical conditions for more than 40 years.
Strabismus (lazy eye)
Botox can help to realign vision by weakening the muscles that are making the eye misaligned and changing their position.
Cervical dystonia (neck spasms)
Botox is injected into muscles, where it reduces or completely stops the spasms.
Injecting Botox into the bladder wall can help prevent the spasms that lead to urinary incontinence.
More recently, it has also been used in cases of:
Hyperhidrosis (severe sweating)
When injected into areas with overactive sweat glands, such as the armpits, Botox can block the nerve endings of the glands so they don’t produce sweat.
When injected in the head or neck, Botox may be able to lessen the agony of these headaches by blocking pain messages from the nerves.
Research is being carried out into other benefits Botox may have. These include investigating it as a possible treatment for depression.
Two years ago, scientists carried out a study in which they injected 73 patients suffering from major depression disorder with Botox or a placebo. After six weeks, 52 per cent of those on Botox noted relief for their symptoms, compared with only 15 per cent of those who got the placebo.
As it is potentially deadly, Botox should only be administered by a qualified practitioner.
Did you know?
In the 1940s, when the US government was researching biological weapons, Botox was considered as a possible way of subduing the enemy.
How does botox banish wrinkles?
It contains molecules that attach to the nerve endings in your muscles to block impulses from the nerves which make those muscles contract. If those muscles can’t move, they can’t pull on the skin. It’s this action of muscles pulling on skin that leads to lines.
Having restricted movement means your skin gets a chance to rest and regenerate. It wears off after three to six months, so the treatment needs to be repeated if you want to see the same effects.
When Botox is overdone, it can completely paralyse the muscles, making your face look frozen. When muscles are not used, they can atrophy, or shrink slightly. This can happen to muscles while they are paralysed by Botox.
One possible side effect is droopy eyelids, due to a lack of support from surrounding muscles that have atrophied.