With all the procedures and technology available that can literally make you look years younger in a day, Botox is now considered one of the most minor cosmetic procedures a person can have. An injection into your skin to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles seems rather non-intrusive and safe. However, it hasn't always been viewed that way, and Botox has uses far beyond cosmetic purposes, which many people don't know. There are several other things people don't know about Botox, and many of them will really surprise you.
It sounds pretty scary to imagine a bacterial toxin being injected to your skin, and the truth is, it IS scary, especially if you get Botox injections from someone who isn't a licensed professional. What we know as "Botox" is actually a neurotoxic protein called "botulinum toxin" or BTX, so it's easy to see where the name Botox came from. There are two kinds (type A and B) of Botox used for commercial purposes. The neurotoxin is formed from the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which is found in an "anaerobic, gram-positive, spore-forming rod commonly found on plants, in soil, water and the intestinal tracts of animals."
Botox is intended to block nerve impulses to muscles, but in rare cases, the toxin will spread to other parts of the body. When this happens, it can cause respiratory paralysis, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, slurred speech, drooping eyelids, muscle weakness, and even death. While the information packet by the FDA, including risks and warnings about using Botox does come with the product, it is not always made available to the public. Because of this, there have been petitions in the past to make warnings more clear on the product, and these have been relatively successful.
23 years ago, scientists first suggested that botulinum toxin could be used to eliminate the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. Before it was used for those purposes, however, it was approved by the FDA for use in treatment of neck and shoulder spasms in 2000. Then, in 2002, it was officially approved by the FDA for clinical use, and it took much of the western world by storm. After only a year of being available for cosmetic use, Botox had generated sales of over $440 million in the US alone. Since then, Botox has been approved for more and more uses, and this has only led to an increase in sales.
Who would have thought that a batch of rotten sausage in the 1800s could lead to the cosmetic "miracle drug" we know as "Botox" today? In the 1820s, Dr. Justinus Kerner was studying a batch of toxic sausages that had killed several German people. Dr. Kerner asserted that there was something within these blood sausages that brought on a disease he called "Wurstgift" (German for sausage poison). This sausage poison would be what we now know as botulism, which is the deadly disease caused by improper ingestion of botulinum toxin. Dr. Kerner went so far as to inject himself with the poison he had discovered (which didn't kill him), and his work paved the way for the study of botulism in the years to come.
It's wild to think that an ingredient used to make people look younger, can also be so incredibly fatal. In the 1940s, when the US government began researching biological weapons to use in the fight against their enemies, botulinum toxin was at the forefront of this research. According to an article published in a medical journal in 2004, the US had planned for Chinese prostitutes to slip tiny capsules filled with deadly botulinum toxin into the drinks of Japanese officials. The plan, however, was never put into action as it was abandoned before the pills were given out.
Strabismus (crossed eyes) can be a challenging condition to fix, but Botox is one of a few very effective ways at realigning one's vision. In the 1950s, an ophthalmologist named Dr. Alan B. Scott received approval for testing the muscle-relaxing effects on monkeys. This research led to it being approved for use in correcting strabismus on human volunteers in 1978. In 1989, the first FDA-approved Botox product for treatment of strabismus and eye spasm came on the market.
Millions of people around the world suffer from hyper-hidrosis, which is excessive sweating. Botox can be injected into areas with over-active sweat glands (like the scalp, armpits, hands, and feet) to treat this condition. According to one Botox website, just one treatment can provide up to 201 days (6.7 months) of relief from hyper-hidrosis. While Botox often gets flack for only being used for cosmetic purposes, it has some life-changing health benefits, too.
Botox works by making the muscles that give the appearance of wrinkles stay still, which means they can't treat wrinkles because they aren't moving. Botox works on wrinkles caused by muscle movement, but unfortunately, it does not work on wrinkles caused by sun damage. When the skin is damaged from the sun, it is occurring from the surface. Botox works on the muscles beneath the surface, and therefore is not effective for reducing the appearance of wrinkles caused by sun damage.
Many people assume that once they've received Botox, they're all done and won't need to again. The truth is, the results only last an average of four to six months for most people, so if you'd like it to continue to work for you, you'll have to keep up with a schedule of injections. However, Botox will build up slightly over time. Luckily, the procedure itself doesn't take long so it won't take too much time out of your day - sometimes only a few minutes (depending on the size of the area you're having treated) and then you can resume normal activities almost immediately.
In 2013, the FDA released a press announcement explaining Botox was now approved for use in adults who suffer from overactive bladder who have not had success with other medications meant to treat it. According to the announcement: “Clinical studies have demonstrated that Botox has the ability to significantly reduce the frequency of urinary incontinence. Today’s approval provides an important additional treatment option for patients with overactive bladders, a condition that affects an estimated 33 million men and women in the United States.” Who knew one toxin could do so much good in the world!
Because it is not FDA approved, most medical doctors do not advise people to use Botox to correct their "gummy smiles," but it doesn't stop some Botox users. People who feel their smile shows too much gum above their teeth have enlisted the help of Botox to make sure their lip doesn't raise too high when they smile. One Beverly Hills surgeon explains: "This technique is not for the novice Botox injector. Too much, and your lip wont raise enough, too little and you will need more, or if injected asymmetrically, you might have a funny asymmetrical smile." Especially considering there isn't FDA approval for this type of Botox use, this seems like one to avoid for right now.
Getting injections into your head when you have a migraine probably sounds like the last thing you would want, but as it turns out, Botox injections can be a really effective tool for migraine sufferers. In 2010, the FDA approved Botox for use in treating chronic migraines. Seven specific sites on the head and neck will be injected with 31 Botox injections every 12 weeks for chronic migraine sufferers, and the results are said to be quite effective.
According to one celebrity plastic surgeon, Dr. Nevin Elizabeth Golkap, celebrities are turning to Botox to treat and prevent things we would have never even thought of. Apparently, celebrities are getting Botox injections in their feet to prevent the pain of high heels. They're allegedly also getting Botox injections in their bust lines to give them a temporary "boost." Dr. Golkap believes "injectables can be used to make almost any physiological and anatomical improvement the person desires in one shot without anyone being the wiser."
We often think that most celebrities turn to plastic surgery to enhance their looks, and while many certainly do, some learn the hard way why you shouldn't. Actress Dana Delaney (Desperate Housewives) shared her Botox horror story with Prevention magazine, in an effort to prevent this from happening to other people:
"Something nobody ever talks about is doctor error. Seven years ago, I had never even heard about Botox. My dermatologist was saying, "You should try it." He injected my forehead, hit a nerve, and created a huge hematoma. The nerve has been dead ever since. It affected the muscle in my right eye, so my eye has started to droop a little bit. Now that I said this to you, everybody will look for it! I notice it more than anybody else, but I was symmetrical before and now I am not."
In 2014, scientists behind a forthcoming study from the Journal of Psychiatric Research injected 73 patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder with either Botox, or a saline placebo. After six weeks 52% of those who had been injected with real Botox noted relief from their depressive symptoms, compared with only 15% of those who received the placebo. The efficacy of the study is thought to be a result of limiting the body's ability to frown, which sends signals to the brain that can signal depression. Therefore, those who could literally NOT frown, seemed to be happier over time than those who could.