Best known by its trade name, Botox is essentially a neurotoxin derived from the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which has been found to have cosmetic and medical applications.
On April 12, 2002, the FDA announced regulatory approval of botulinum toxin type A (Botox Cosmetic) as it was found after formal trials to temporarily improve the appearance of moderate-to severe-wrinkles: crow’s feet, forehead creases, and furrows between the eyebrows.
Botox is injected into the facial muscle beneath the skin, inhibiting chemical reactions within the muscle and causing temporary paralysis.
The superficial results vary but can last up to eight months. Injectables are seen as less intrusive in comparison to other types of plastic or cosmetic surgery, especially when considering costs and recovery.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports 2012 had the highest number of Botox Cosmetic type A users to date at 6.1 million in the US, up by eight percent from 2011. The non-surgical procedure can cost an average of $400 a session.
The most common side effect of Botox is short-term bruising and tenderness around the injection site. Headaches are also common but usually resolve within 24 to 48 hours.
Habitual Botox users may be disappointed to learn the effects may lessen over time or stop working altogether. German research, published in the Journal of Neural Transmission, found that one in 200 Botox users developed antibodies, making the treatment less effective over time.
Clinicians warn the repeated stimulation of antibodies, produced by the body’s immune system in response to foreign invaders, may eventually suppress the efficacy of Botox altogether. This means patients who require larger doses of the injections for spasm treatments may incur the same nullified effect due to an adaptable immune response.
Resistance, similar to how people become resistant to antibiotics, can be seen in patients who have used Botox steadily for at least ten years. Patients should be thoroughly counseled on the benefits, risks, and the potential of developing immunity.
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