What is Botulinum toxin?
Botulinum toxin is a chemical produced by bacterium clostridium botulinum. Botox is a protein derivative of the toxin, which, when injected into a muscle, causes it to become weakened or inactivated. It stops the muscle from functioning by blocking neuromuscular transmission -i.e. it stops the chemical messages from the nerve to the muscle.
How does it work?
By using facial muscles repeatedly throughout a lifetime, the skin is creased in areas of greatest use. The aging process causes the slow down of collagen and elastin production in the skin so that as we get older, these areas of over-use become damaged and the lines become permanent. By reducing the movement of muscles in these areas, the skin stops being creased and is allowed to recover, causing the lines to soften or even fade away. In the areas treated, the muscles are temporarily inactivated, (always reversible), during which time the patient can break the subconscious habit of overusing these muscles. Depending on each individual and the dose used, the response to treatment can vary from a relaxation of the muscles to an inability to move the muscles.
For the first couple of years, frequent treatments are required to “re-educate” the facial muscles. Thereafter, treatments wold be less frequent un5til a yearly maintenance treatment is normally all that is required.
How long has Botox been in use?
As long as ago as 1978, Botox was used as a treatment for patients with eye squints by weakening the overactive eye muscle. Since then, it has been used in a variety of therapeutic areas such as spasmodic neck, writer’s cramp, tics, multiple sclerosis, facial spasm, Parkinson’s Disease and cerebral palsy, to name but a few, in more recent times the use of Botox for cosmetic therapy has become more widespread.
How safe is Botox?
In high concentrations botulinum toxin is a potent poison, however, Botox used in minute doses, as it is in cosmetic therapy, has a very high margin of safety.
What happens during treatment?
The procedure takes about 15 minutes. The practitioner will ask you to use certain muscles of the face to observe how they work. An extremely fine, short needle is used to inject the Botox into the appropriate area. This may cause some slight but brief discomfort. The area may have some slight redness and swelling, which normally resolves in an hour or two. After treatment, you should not massage the injected area. You should not lie down for four hours after treatment.
The treatment normally starts to take effect after 4 to 14 days, but this may vary slightly with some individuals. The effects will normally last between 2 and 6 months, when you will start to notice an ability to move the muscles more freely.
Are there any side effects?
Side effects of this treatment are rare. Most people find that the injection causes only mild discomfort. Immediately after the injection there may be mild swelling, which usually subsides in 48 hours.
Occasionally a temporary drooping of the eyelid can occur. This may last a few weeks but will always resolve. Special eye drops can be prescribed during this time to help lift the lid back into the normal position. In extremely rare cases patients have developed an allergy to the treatment, while others have shown resistance, i.e. it causes little or no effect on the treated muscles.
If you are pregnant or a nursing mother, treatment is not recommended.
You can help activate the Botox by gently exercising the muscles that have been treated i.e. frown & Smile as frequently as possible.
Some patients experience slight discomfort around the treatment area for a short time after treatment.
Bruising can be avoided or minimised by avoiding aspirin and alcohol for 24 hours pre and post treatment.
You may experience temporary swelling or bruising around the site of treatment. This will usually settle within a day or two. Some patients can experience a headache following treatment for which you make take paracetamol.
The results are not permanent, and the duration will differ from patient to patient.
The treatment normally takes 4-10 days to take effect.
Side effects, if they occur, are usually temporary and mild to moderate.
The most common reported side effects:
*Drooping of the eye lid or brow
*Excessive watering of the eye
*Mild inflammation of the surface of the eye