From better health to preventive treatment: the surprising benefits of Botox
Some people call Botox the modern-day aspirin, because it is so well known and popular with a large percentage of the population. Dr. Downie, a Botox patient as well as an experienced injector, considers it as necessary as breathing for anyone who wants to look youthful. She is known as one of the foremost Botox injectors across the country, and many new patients come to image Dermatology with a variety of questions. Although the product is quite familiar, its history and variety of uses are lesser known. With many surprising health benefits and a tradition of safety, Botox has earned its place as a staple of aesthetic skin care.
A brief history of Botox
Within the past couple of decades, Botox has become a household name. You might be surprised to learn that the benefits of botulinum toxin were discovered in the 1920s, and the formula was refined by the 1940s. Why didn’t we hear of Botox sooner? It was a prescription medication used to treat a few types of muscular disorders. Although it was a medical breakthrough, the product wasn’t of interest or use to the general population. That began to change a few decades later.
In 1987, an ophthalmologist named Dr. Jean Carruthers (Dr. Downie’s friend) used a botulinum toxin formula to treat a patient’s spasms in the eye area. Much to her surprise, the patient requested treatment in her forehead as well, even though it wasn’t spasming at the time. When asked why, the patient insisted that previous forehead injections not only stopped muscle spasms, but also made her wrinkles disappear.
Dr. Carruthers, along with her husband who is a dermatologist, began investigating the woman’s claims. This unexpected, though very welcome, “side effect” was replicated in small studies, and later in larger clinical trials. By the early 1990s, Botox Cosmetic was born, changing the face of aging forever. Since that time, Botox Cosmetic has been used to treat well over ten million women and men around the world, with an excellent record of safety and efficacy.
Botox vs Botox Cosmetic
While we usually refer to wrinkle relaxing injections simply as “Botox,” that is actually the name of the medical formula. Botox Cosmetic is technically a separate product. Many patients ask what the difference is, and if the cosmetic version is inferior in any way. Essentially, the only difference is on the business side of things. The formulas are chemically identical but have different labeling and FDA approvals. This separation simplifies insurance billing, clinical trials, and similar matters. However, you can rest assured that the active ingredient, and quality in the cosmetic formula are equal to those in standard (medical) Botox.
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How Botox is used medically
Ophthalmologists are not the only doctors who use Botox for non-cosmetic treatments. In truth, it has a wide variety of medicinal uses, and the list continues to grow. Conditions it can treat include:
- Strabismus – Misalignment of eye muscles, often referred to as crossed eyes
- Blepharospasm – Spasms of the eyelid muscles, resulting in frequent and uncontrollable blinking
- Overactive bladder – Frequent, strong urge to urinate, often accompanied by leakage of the bladder
- Chronic migraines – Defined as fifteen or more headaches each month, with at least eight of those being migraines
- Primary axillary hyperhidrosis – Excess sweating under the arms
- Focal spasticity – A disorder characterized by muscle stiffness, rigidity, spasms, and involuntary twitches
- Cervical dystonia – Abnormal position of the neck, causing stiffness and pain
- Depression – Botox is currently being studied for treatment of depression
- TMJ – For jaw clenching or to treat a bulky jaw
How Botox is used cosmetically
There are a few surprises in this category as well. You probably know that Botox is the go-to solution for erasing crow’s feet. However, you might not be aware that it can stop those lines before they even form.
Originally, most Botox patients were in their forties or older, with well-defined crow’s feet, frown lines, and more. In these patients, Botox can soften the wrinkles, and sometimes remove them. The degree of improvement depends on how deeply creased the skin is when the face is relaxed. Because most patients are delighted with the results, they tend to keep using Botox, year after year. Dermatologists quickly noticed that those longtime patients were not developing new lines in the treatment areas. Today, many men and women begin Botox in their twenties or early thirties, as a highly effective preventive treatment.