Botulinum toxin is used to treat certain eye disorders such as crossed eyes (strabismus) and uncontrolled blinking (blepharospasm), to treat muscle stiffness/spasms or movement disorders (such as cervical dystonia, torticollis), and to reduce the cosmetic appearance of wrinkles. It is also used to prevent headaches in people with very frequent migraines. Botulinum toxin relaxes muscle by blocking the release of a chemical called acetylcholine.
Receiving Botox injections for migraines is a straightforward outpatient procedure. The skin in the area to be injected is cleaned. Most injections are administered in the forehead area, usually above the eyes or where “worry lines” might occur. Because this area may be sensitive or patients may be experiencing hypersensitivity to pain, a topical anesthetic may be applied before the injection.
Botox stays only where injected, it does not roam through the body. "If I inject it in your face, it's not going to work [or show up in] your toe," says Rowe. "It does not have a systemic effect." However, it may migrate up to 3 cm from where it was injected. But even if some molecules were to go into the bloodstream and travel to distant sites in the body, the cosmetic doses (typically less than 100 units) used are significantly lower than the toxic dose that would be harmful systemically (2,500-3,000 units).
Headache is a universal experience. At present, there are more than 100 different types of headache and one of the most recurring ones is migraine, which affects approximately 10-12% of the population, being three times more common in women than in men. When migraine becomes chronic -occurring more than 15 days a month-, it can disrupt patients' daily life in a great degree.
Results can vary depending on who is performing the injection on the patient. It is very important to go to a physician who is experienced at this procedure, does it him- or herself (rather than having a nurse, physician's assistant [PA], or other nonphysician do it), and has a good reputation for performing this type of procedure. The manufacturers of Botox recommend physicians inject the medication themselves. As with most procedures, the skill of the practitioner is related to how often he or she performs the procedure.
Botox injections work by weakening or paralyzing certain muscles or by blocking certain nerves. The effects last about three to twelve months, depending on what you are treating. The most common side effects are pain, swelling, or bruising at the injection site. You could also have flu-like symptoms, headache, and upset stomach. Injections in the face may also cause temporary drooping eyelids. You should not use Botox if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
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Contrary to popular belief, the bacteria that causes botulism, clostridium botulinum, is not part of the treatment, nor are six of the seven neurotoxins it secretes. The only substance used in Botox injections, botulinum toxin A, is carefully extracted, purified, and standardized into FDA-approved doses. Plus, the dosage is so small, it can't get beyond the muscle tissue it's injected into, meaning there's little if any chance for Botox to reach the bloodstream.
Dr. Schwedt believes ARMR offers hope for patients living with migraine. “ARMR data could lead to breakthroughs in the field,” he says. One hope for ARMR is that it will contribute to the ability for health care providers to use precision medicine to treat their patients. Clinical trials show which migraine therapies are overall effective for groups of people with migraine; however, health care providers are still working to understand which specific therapy is ideal for a particular patient. “One of the challenges we have in this field right now is being able to determine which exact therapy is going to be best for which patient,” Dr. Schwedt says. “For example, we might know that about 50% of patients will benefit from a specific migraine preventive therapy, but we don’t know in advance which 50% that is. I believe the data we’re collecting in ARMR is going to help us get to the stage where we can practice precision medicine, knowing which therapy is most likely to help an individual patient prior to the patient starting that therapy.”
Some skin care centers advertise low prices for Botox on a "cost per area" basis, advertising prices of $200-$300 for one area. The doctor we spoke to recommends getting price quotes on a "cost per unit" basis, because some places might be quoting lower prices but giving you smaller treatments, which may be less effective and require more frequent visits.
Tell your doctor if you have received any other botulinum toxin product in the last 4 months; have received injections of botulinum toxin such as Myobloc®, Dysport®, or Xeomin® in the past (tell your doctor exactly which product you received); have recently received an antibiotic by injection; take muscle relaxants; take an allergy or cold medicine; take a sleep medicine; take aspirin-like products or blood thinners.