Botox, which is the brand name, is a major player in cosmetic surgery today. However, Botox also has uses in mainline medicine, from helping with squints (strabismus), to a way of dealing with excess underarm sweating.
It is derived from the Chlostridium Botulinus toxin, which causes severe food poisoning, called botulism, which can be fatal. However the toxic effects of the bacterium were noted as causing paralysis and scientist began to investigate whether this effect could be used in certain medical conditions where over active muscles cause distress or discomfort. A dilute solution of the toxin can be injected directly into muscles.
Its use for medicinal purposes was licensed in the late 1980s, when it was discovered that it could help conditions like strabismus or blepharospasms (uncontrolled blinking). In 2002 it was licensed for use to treat frown lines between the eyebrows.
Although its cosmetic use gets the most exposure, its use in medicine is far more important. Many people suffering embarrassing, uncomfortable or painful conditions have been helped immensely by Botox injections and it is currently being investigated to see what other uses it could be put to.
Administration is simple. The solution is injected in the specific muscles with a fine hypodermic syringe. It is no more painful than any other injection. The full effect will not be felt for up to a week. During this time the solution will be gradually blocking the signals from the nerves to the muscles. When the signals are fully blocked the muscle will no longer be able to contract and the effects will become apparent.
One medical condition being treated nowadays is anal fissure, which can lead to infection. It can also cause spasms of the anal sphincter muscles, leading to permanent diarrhea. Naturally, this can be very embarrassing, but the use of Botox can prevent this problem and as the anal muscles have chance to relax the fissures can sometimes heal themselves.
Blepharospasms, mentioned above is incessant blinking or eye twitching. It was whilst treating this condition that Jean Carruthers noticed the cosmetic effect on wrinkles around the eyes of patient being treated. The other eye problem, Strabismus, is helped by the overactive muscle being treated, thus allowing other eye muscles to work correctly.
Botox can help cerebral palsy, by stopping the dystonic muscles contracting and allowing physiotherapy to stretch the muscles to stimulate normal movement.The cerebral palsy sufferers can get an increased range of locomotive activities. Other dystonic conditions can also be treated, relieving spasms and allowing sufferers a full range of movement. In ventilated children with spinal injuries this can often stop the spasms they have which cause distress, as they affect the breathing regime.
Hyperhidrosis or excessive sweating can also be treated. It is generally used for excessive sweating under the arms, but could be used elsewhere, for instance the feet. Trials are underway for the treatment of migraine headaches. Many of those sufferers who have been treated have reported relief from symptoms. However the optimum dose has not yet been determined.
Stroke is another condition that is being treated with Botox. Often the victims experience severe muscle spasms as a result of the stroke, affecting the hands and arms. Botox is being used to prevent those and allow sufferers to regain full use of their limbs.