Botox®, the Poison to Look Pretty
Botulism toxin, the protein used as the active ingredient in Botox® is the most acutely toxic substance known to humankind. Just a microgram of botulinum toxin could be enough to kill a person, and four kilograms of the toxin, if evenly distributed, would be more than enough to kill everyone on planet Earth. Yet, we don’t think twice before paying good money to have it injected into our faces to reduce wrinkles. Some even go as far as celebrating this poison at “Botox® parties”.
Botulinum toxin, is an interesting substance. The protein comes from the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. It causes the disease botulism, a potentially life threatening illness. The illness is marked by progressive paralysis of muscles including the ones we need to breath. Yes, it is the same paralyzing properties of this toxin that are responsible for the thousands of frozen faces in Hollywood.
Common Uses of Botox®
But Botulism toxin is not just used for wrinkle reduction. In fact, the poison has been used for decades treating many other conditions such as:
“Crossed eyes” or strabismus, a condition in which the eyes are not properly aligned with each other.
“Uncontrollable blinking” (blepharospasm).
Spasm of the lower esophageal sphincter (achalasia)
Excessive sweating, “Hyperhidrosis” of the arm pits and palms.
And even migraines, although the evidence is conflicting in this indication.
Other Uses of Botox®
Other “off label” uses of botulinum toxin type A that are widely known include treatment of:
To reduce the spasm of the vaginal muscles
Movement disorders associated with injury or disease of the central nervous system including trauma, stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, or cerebral palsy
TMJ pain disorders
Vocal cord dysfunction
And reduction of the Masseter muscle for decreasing the apparent size of the lower jaw (often done in women to feminize the face).
In 2002, the FDA announced regulatory approval of botulinum toxin type A (Botox Cosmetic) to temporarily improve the appearance of moderate-to-severe frown lines between the eyebrows (glabellar lines). Botox® generally lasts about four months, and the side effects are rather minimal. Generally, a treatment of Botox® will use just a fraction of one vial. The good news is, to kill an adult human, one would probably need at least entire 30 vials injected at one setting.
For more on Botox® and injectables click here.
Dr. Tim Neavin is a board-certified plastic surgeon located in Beverly Hills, California.