What is Botox?
Botulinum toxin is a protein that is produced by the Clostridium botulinum bacteria. It is referred to as a “toxin” because it is can be a component in food poisoning, most commonly due to improperly handled meat products. The illness caused by such poisoning is called “botulism,” which can be life threatening because it impairs the nervous system and can eventually paralyze vital functions such as breathing. About 15% of botulism cases in the U.S. are fatal.
With this background, it is not hard to understand why a number of fears and myths have spread about cosmetic and therapeutic uses of Botox.
Myth #1: Botox injections are toxic to the body
Botox injections are a purified version of the botulinum toxin protein. The solution is very dilute. The concentration of the protein is so low that ordinary antibiotics are of comparable toxicity.
Second, the injection is made to pinpoint areas, and because of the low concentration it is generally incapable of spreading throughout the body.
For cosmetic use, a typical dose is 20-70 units. A life threatening dose would be about 100 times the average dose. (Even some common non-prescription drugs would be fatal if you took an overdose of that magnitude.)
Out of millions of cases, there have been less than 30 deaths linked to Botox over a 15 years period, and none of them were related to cosmetic injections. Cosmetic Botox has an excellent safety record.
Myth #2: Botox injections distort or freeze facial expressions
Well, this isn’t entirely just a myth.
Normal Botox treatments allow the muscles to relax for a period of time, but this is generally beneficial and the ultimate result is a natural and expressive appearance.
However, misadministered Botox injections can cause exaggerrated facial immobility or a disturbingly long period of paralysis of muscles involved in facial expressions. This will eventually clear up, but it can be very distressing. This is caused either by an overdose, or by injecting the wrong muscles, or by both.
This won’t be an issue with a competent clinician. For this reason, avoid Botox ‘mills,’ salons or mall shops. Consult a qualified physician for your Botox treatments to avoid such awkward outcomes.
Click here to read more about how Botox works to reduce facial wrinkles.
Myth #3: Botox is just cosmetic – it has no genuine therapeutic use
Botox has been used to treat muscle dystonias, such as writer’s cramp, as well as migraine headaches and cerebral palsy, among other therapeutic uses. It is also being studied for it’s potential to help chronic back and neck pain.
Myth #4: Botox injections are painful
Again, not totally a myth, because there can be some sensation or irritation. But there is generally no or insignificant bruising, and many patients compare the overall annoyance to a mosquito bite. Any more serious side-effects usually resolve within a couple days.