Sarah of My Migraine Life is a mom living with chronic migraine and daily headaches who has tried a gamete of medications, alternative therapies and lifestyle changes. These experiences led her to write “My Migraine Life,” a website for people living with migraine and their caretakers devoted to telling stories, raising awareness, giving support, product reviews and more. My Migraine Life is a partner of the American Migraine Foundation.
In double-blind, placebo-controlled chronic migraine efficacy trials (Study 1 and Study 2), the discontinuation rate was 12% in the BOTOX treated group and 10% in the placebo-treated group. Discontinuations due to an adverse event were 4% in the BOTOX group and 1% in the placebo group. The most frequent adverse events leading to discontinuation in the BOTOX group were neck pain, headache, worsening migraine, muscular weakness and eyelid ptosis.
Botulinum toxin injections are one approach to the treatment of muscle spasticity. These injections can be given with ease and have minimal side effects. They can also be used in very focal spasticity problems that involve a few muscle groups. This treatment may not be right for some patients, such as patients with severe, widespread muscle spasticity, and patients with permanent muscle contractures that have become rigid.
Postmarketing safety data from BOTOX and other approved botulinum toxins suggest that botulinum toxin effects may, in some cases, be observed beyond the site of local injection. The symptoms are consistent with the mechanism of action of botulinum toxin and may include asthenia, generalized muscle weakness, diplopia, ptosis, dysphagia, dysphonia, dysarthria, urinary incontinence, and breathing difficulties. These symptoms have been reported hours to weeks after injection. Swallowing and breathing difficulti es can be life threatening and there have been reports of death related to spread of toxin effects. The risk of symptoms is probably greatest in children treated for spasticity but symptoms can also occur in adults treated for spasticity and other conditions, and partic ularly in those patients who have an underlying condition that would predispose them to these symptoms. In unapproved uses, including spasticity in children, and in approved indications, symptoms consistent with spread of toxin effect have been reported at do ses comparable to or lower than doses used to treat cervical dystonia and spasticity. Patients or caregivers should be advised to seek immediate medical care if swallowing, speech or respiratory disorders occur.
Still, there have been enough concerns that the FDA instituted a REMS (Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy) requirement for all botulinum toxin preparations that specifically addresses the issues of distant spread of the toxin and the risk of problems, leading to death, from swallowing or breathing issues in certain patients who may be susceptible after botulinum toxin treatment. All products, including Dysport, Myobloc, Xeomin, and Botox, are monitored via this strategy. This is specifically aimed at a certain population of patients receiving more than the usual doses of botulinum toxin and not aimed at the casual user of Botox, per se.
Botox is so commonplace these days that you can get it done at some gyms and spas, but in these cases, you never know what you’re getting, how old the product is, with what it's mixed, and whether the injector knows what he or she is doing. Dr. Matarasso suggests only getting it done by what he calls the “core four”: a board-certified physician who is either a dermatologist, a plastic surgeon, an ear-nose-and-throat doctor, or an ophthalmologist.
Recently, there have been concerns about retrograde botulinum toxin transmission, meaning that the toxin could travel back to the central nervous system, causing long-term damage. Studies done in Italy by Flavia Antonucci have been mainly on a raw form of the toxin and not any of the commercially available preparations. Additionally, these studies have been performed on animals and with the injection of the toxin to one area and in a concentration of nearly 150 times greater than normal injections for cosmetic indications, which are spread over multiple sites.
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Before I could try Botox, my health insurance — Cigna — required me to try and fail at least two other meds. I tried tricyclic antidepressants, which made me groggy and turned my brain into molasses, and beta blockers, a class of drugs used for high blood pressure and heart problems. (All treatments to prevent migraines are borrowed from other conditions, except a new class of drugs that was just approved by the Food and Drug Administration.) The beta blockers worked for a few months: they slightly reduced the number of migraines and made the headaches more bearable. But late last year, the migraines became chronic again — I had more than 15 in a month. That’s when my neurologist said: “I think it’s time to try Botox.”
Treatment with BOTOX® and other botulinum toxin products can result in swallowing or breathing difficulties. Patients with pre-existing swallowing or breathing difficulties may be more susceptible to these complications. In most cases, this is a consequence of weakening of muscles in the area of injection that are involved in breathing or oropharyngeal muscles that control swallowing or breathing (see Boxed Warning).
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Do not inject into blood vessels. Introduction of these products into the vasculature may lead to embolization, occlusion of the vessels, ischemia, or infarction. Take extra care when injecting soft-tissue fillers; for example, inject the product slowly and apply the least amount of pressure necessary. Rare, but serious, adverse events associated with the intravascular injection of soft-tissue fillers in the face have been reported and include temporary or permanent vision impairment, blindness, cerebral ischemia or cerebral hemorrhage leading to stroke, skin necrosis, and damage to underlying facial structures. Immediately stop the injection if a patient exhibits any of the following symptoms: changes in vision, signs of a stroke, blanching of the skin, unusual pain during or shortly after the procedure. Patients should receive prompt medical attention and, possibly, evaluation by an appropriate healthcare professional specialist should an intravascular injection occur
That said, there are a few things I'd make sure everyone knows before trying it. For one thing, it can be pretty painful. I have a pretty high pain tolerance, but getting 30 to 40 shots every three months is pretty rough — it feels a bit like getting tattooed with a bee's stinger, but once the needle is out of your skin, the pain goes away, and if it works for you, it's worth it. It's also important to know that it can take some time to work. The first treatment barely worked at all for me, and the second round took a few weeks. If you're going to try it out, be patient.
In many children, there are a few muscle groups that can have very active spasticity. A more focal approach to these muscles would be better than a widespread approach. In this case a doctor may advise a nerve block to interrupt the signal to the muscle that is spastic. Once the signal that is carried to the muscle by the nerve is interrupted, the spasticity will decrease.
Ptosis generally occurs from injecting the frontalis incorrectly. The worst mistake is for the injector to move the procerus and corrugator injection points higher, where they will place more onabotulinumtoxinA into the frontalis. It is important to examine patients to determine their preexisting conditions prior to treatment administration. In particular, patients should be examined for pre-existing eyelid ptosis or pseudoptosis. With pseudoptosis, the lid strength is normal, but soft tissue covers part of the upper lid. With lid ptosis, the lid strength is weak. For both lid ptosis and pseudoptosis, patients will have frontalis compensatory activity, resulting in upgoing eyebrows (reverse Babinski sign). With brow ptosis, the frontalis is weak, and the eyebrow is depressed downward leading to tissue resting on the upper lid. To avoid this, the frontalis should be injected in the upper third of the forehead. The corrugator muscle attaches to bone at the medial end of the superciliary arch. The muscle fibers travel laterally and upward inserting into the skin in the middle of the supraorbital margin. The corrugator muscle is partially blended with the orbicularis oculi and occipitofrontalis. The supraorbital and supratrochlear nerves pass through the corrugator muscle. The corrugator muscle acts to pull the eyebrows downward and medially, which causes vertical wrinkle lines in the skin between the brows.
The results usually start to be noticed within three to 10 days or even sooner. They tend to last in most people for up to three or four months. As time passes, the muscle activity will gradually return to normal. Additionally, other areas may return to activity over time, depending on the amount injected. The interesting thing about Botox is that it tends to work fairly well even up to the third month, as a procedure that might last a very short time at full strength and then go away quickly (filler injections such as Restylane, Perlane, or Juvederm tend to last approximately six to 12 months, depending on the amount used).
Galli’s winning film presents herself, and people with migraine, as superheroes, living with a secret identity: migraine. “Other than me laying down on my couch, and knowing what's going on inside my body, nobody sees what's happening,” she says. “It's all happening inside. It's like that same struggle that superheroes have.” The migraine symptoms are superpowers, albeit ones that you don’t want. When her migraine attacks first began, Galli recalls an increased sensitivity to sound, odors, light and “all these things that feel not normal.” Many people with migraine are fighting the disease on their own, because their peers can’t relate to what their feeling on a daily basis. “It's time that we create better awareness and we tell the world that no, we don't need to be alone,” she says. “We don't need to fight alone and hide in the dark.” The film, she hopes, will add to the conversation and bring this disease out of the shadows. For the more than 37 million Americans living with migraine, Galli says: “You’re all superheroes. I hear you, I feel you.”
Tell your doctor about all your medical conditions, including: plans to have surgery; had surgery on your face; have trouble raising your eyebrows; drooping eyelids; any other abnormal facial change; are pregnant or plan to become pregnant (it is not known if BOTOX® Cosmetic can harm your unborn baby); are breast-feeding or plan to (it is not known if BOTOX® Cosmetic passes into breast milk).