I asked this question as Ravitz was putting the first needles in my face, which was probably a mistake as I get anxious easily. However, she assured me that the side effects of Botox typically don't happen at the doses prescribed for migraines, and even if the scary-sounding side effects you read about online do occur (such as one-side paralysis and eye droops), they aren't particularly dangerous and last four to six weeks.
Now, thanks in large part to off-label use, Botox--the wrinkle smoother that exploded as a cultural phenomenon and medical triumph--is increasingly being drafted for problems that go far beyond the cosmetic. The depression suffered by Rosenthal's patient is just one example on a list that includes everything from excessive sweating and neck spasms to leaky bladders, premature ejaculation, migraines, cold hands and even the dangerous cardiac condition of atrial fibrillation after heart surgery, among others. The range of conditions for which doctors are now using Botox is dizzying, reflecting the drug's unique characteristics as much as the drug industry's unique strategies for creating a blockbuster.
In cosmetic applications, botulinum toxin is considered safe and effective for reduction of facial wrinkles, especially in the uppermost third of the face. Injection of botulinum toxin into the muscles under facial wrinkles causes relaxation of those muscles, resulting in the smoothing of the overlying skin. Smoothing of wrinkles is usually visible three days after treatment and is maximally visible two weeks following injection. The treated muscles gradually regain function, and generally return to their former appearance three to four months after treatment. Muscles can be treated repeatedly to maintain the smoothed appearance.
How Long Do Botox Treatments Last? Before you begin you should know that effects of Botox last about three to four months. That’s all – when practitioners make claim that it lasts longer don’t believe them because it doesn’t. So when you factor in the cost of Botox or Dysport you should know that in order to maintain the beneficial effects of these injections you will probably repeat the treatment three to four times a year.
Though botulinum toxin is available under different names, Botox is the only one that is FDA-approved for migraine prevention. To be considered for Botox, patients must have migraines 15 days or more per month, which is considered chronic daily migraine. About 4 million Americans have such migraines, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. Also, patients must have tried and failed on at least 2 other medications first.
It’s not just about Botox, though. Last month, the FDA approved the first migraine-specific drug to prevent the severe headaches. Called Aimovig, the injectable med will cost $6,900 a year, according to The New York Times, plus injection fees. Because of the high costs, experts expect the new drug to be subject to step therapy policies. Stephen Silberstein, the director of the headache center at Jefferson University, told me in 2016 that he wouldn’t be surprised if insurance companies required patients to even try and fail Botox before covering the new meds (there are a few of them under development).
Most insurance providers now recognize BOTOX as treatment for migraines. Some have specific criteria that patients must meet, or require documentation that you have gone through other treatment protocols before trying BOTOX. It can take several weeks to receive authorization to begin treatment. Check with your insurance provider to make sure you fulfill their requirements, and to begin the approval process.
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According to Ravitz, it's very effective among a large sampling of her patients and is usually very well tolerated. She says some of her patients find that it even eliminates the need for medication, which is a huge deal. However, she also says, "About 7 to 10 percent of my patients find that it’s not effective and they actually feel worse during that time." As with any medical procedure, everybody (and everyone's actual body) is different and will respond to treatment differently, and it's best to do a healthy amount of research and thoroughly talk to your doctor about your body and medical history before making a decision.
Botox is best known for smoothing out wrinkles, but since 2010 it’s also been used to prevent migraines. (Scientists aren’t 100 percent sure why Botox works, though it may interfere with the transmission of pain signals to the brain.) Though the 36 injections I get every three months in my forehead, skull, neck, and shoulders are painful, they’ve been a game changer. I went from 16 to 18 migraines a month to about eight. The intensity of the pain has gone down, too. The results are so good that I find myself frustrated that I spent so many years in unnecessary misery.
Costs to consider: immediate out-of-pocket costs, long-term higher cost of insurance, your time, and the pain of injections. Botox for migraine costs approximately $525 per vial (100 units) and a typical migraine dose is 155 units. Depending on what your doctor charges in addition to the Botox itself, it’ll set you back $1500 – $2300 to test it out. And then there’s the needle pain. Don’t make the mistake of going to get a Botox injection if you’re in the midst of an attack, because it’ll be more painful than ever. Better to reschedule.
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With small children, I find that being prepared allows us to function better. My family food preps for the week with fruits, veggies and snack-size portions. I keep the snacks on a shelf that my children can easily reach, so they can choose a healthy option if they’re hungry and I’m unable to get up. Meals are well-thought-out and prepared ahead of time, in case of a migraine attack. I always have a back-up plan for my children. I have alternative arrangements for them after school if I am unable to care for them or myself. I also have activities planned. I keep crafts around that occupy my children’s time but also keep sound and stress to a minimum. We color, build Legos and play with Play-Doh all while sitting in rooms with strategically placed lights and brightness. I save screen time for when I need a few moments of quiet. We keep a routine and schedule, but also stay flexible. A schedule allows my family to know what to expect for our days and evenings. My children are able to continue their day if I have a migraine attack because they know what needs to be done and in what order. We have strict bedtimes that allow my children’s brains to grow and mine to recover. Along with this, I have taught them that moms don’t always feel well, and we may need to adjust the schedule from time to time to accommodate my migraine. I keep medication that can fight a migraine attack with me for use on the go and safely at home. I see a neurologist on a regular basis who helps me manage my migraine symptoms and medication.
Spread of toxin effects. The effect of botulinum toxin may affect areas away from the injection site and cause serious symptoms including: loss of strength and all-over muscle weakness, double vision, blurred vision and drooping eyelids, hoarseness or change or loss of voice, trouble saying words clearly, loss of bladder control, trouble breathing, trouble swallowing.
BOTOX® Cosmetic targets one of the underlying causes of frown lines, crow’s feet and forehead lines — the repeated muscle contractions from frowning, squinting, smiling and raising the eyebrows over the years. Your specialist will inject these muscles with BOTOX® Cosmetic to temporarily reduce muscle activity. You will begin to notice a visible smoothing of the frown lines between your brows, your crow’s feet lines and your forehead lines.
There have been reports following administration of BOTOX® of adverse events involving the cardiovascular system, including arrhythmia and myocardial infarction, some with fatal outcomes. Some of these patients had risk factors including pre-existing cardiovascular disease. Use caution when administering to patients with pre-existing cardiovascular disease.
When women in their 20's first consider getting Botox, prevention is often the primary factor, since the early signs of aging—such as crow's feet, forehead wrinkles, and fine lines—are beginning to show. "Lines get deeper and deeper with age," explains Wexler. "If you start [getting Botox] early enough and it's done properly, you're not going to need [as much] in the future." For younger patients wary of the frozen look—remember, youthful faces move—Wexler likes to employ lower doses of Botox via ultra-targeted micro injections administered on specific areas of the face such as the forehead, brows, or around the eyes.
On average, each BOTOX treatment requires 32 injections, though individual patients may require fewer or more. You’ll receive injections every twelve weeks, and each session only takes a few minutes. BOTOX begins to work as soon as it’s injected, and you should see full results within a week of your first injections. Most patients who benefit from BOTOX treatments receive five rounds of injections over 15 months. BOTOX is injected using a very fine needle. Most patients describe it as feeling like a tiny pinprick.
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 injection; take muscle relaxants; take allergy or cold medicines; take sleep medicine; take aspirin-like products or blood thinners.