BOTOX, Not Just For Wrinkles
Today many people are talking about using botulinum toxin or BOTOX to get rid of their wrinkles. Years ago, this toxin was only associated with a rare but deadly disease called botulism. Ingesting food contaminated with bacteria that produces this toxin, results in severe paralysis and death in many cases. However, the paralysis eventually resolves and patients can recover completely.
This was the basis for research into the use of BOTOX for therapeutic purposes. Very dilute concentrations of BOTOX could be injected into muscles to reduce uncontrolled muscle contractions or spasms. In the early 1980’s, this toxin was first used to control spasms of the fine muscles that move the eyes and the eyelids. Alan B. Scott, M.D. pioneered this work at the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco. It was particularly effective in the treatment of blepharospasm and hemifacial spasm.
Treatment, Relaxing the Eye Muscles
Essential blepharospasm is a neurological condition of unknown origin that involves uncontrolled blinking or squeezing of the eyelids. Can you imagine having both eyes close suddenly while driving or walking across the street? Obviously, this condition can be severely incapacitating. A series of injections of BOTOX into the eyelid muscles using a very tiny needle can control spasms for 2 to 6 months. The effects for this 5-minute procedure can be enjoyed within 3 to 5 days of treatment. Any side effects are reversible and include dry eyes, and occasionally drooping of the eyelids or bruising.
Hemifacial spasm is a condition involving spasms of one side of the face due to abnormal transmission from the facial nerve. The spasms of the eyelids can be controlled for up to 1 year with BOTOX. Movements of the cheek and mouth can be controlled to a lesser degree. Speech and chewing can be affected by overtreatment of these muscles.
Treatment, Eliminating Wrinkles
So how does BOTOX eliminate wrinkles? Many of the lines around the eyes are caused by muscles contracting when we smile or laugh. Selectively paralyzing these muscles can eliminate “crows feet” and other wrinkles for several months. BOTOX has been shown to be effective in eliminating spasms and wrinkles. Your medical insurance will likely cover the treatment of spasms but not wrinkles.
Clostridium botulinum toxin type A is produced by Allergan, Inc of Irvine, CA under the brand name BOTOX. For individuals suffering from blepharospasm and related disorders, the Benign Essential Blepharospasm Research Foundation, P.O. Box 12468, Beaumont, Texas 77726-2468 is an excellent source of information and support groups.