What are BOTOX® injections?

BOTOX® is the brand name of a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. In large amounts, this toxin can cause a form of muscle paralysis known as botulism, which is usually associated with food poisoning. Even though one of the most serious complications of botulism is paralysis, scientists have discovered a way to use it to human advantage. Small, diluted (weakened) amounts can be directly injected into specific muscles, causing controlled relaxation of the muscles.

The FDA approved such usage in the late 1980s when it was discovered that BOTOX® could stop ailments such as blepharospasm (uncontrolled blinking) and strabismus (lazy eye). Cosmetic physicians have been using BOTOX® for years to successfully treat wrinkles and facial creases. BOTOX® is approved for treatment of frown lines on the forehead, crow’s feet (lines around the eye), and axillary hyperhidrosis (increased sweating of the armpits). Within the past few years, new products that have similar preparations have been introduced into the U.S. market and have been well-received by patients.

We will refer to the toxin as BOTOX® from here on out, but please know that this includes all of the formulations:

  • BOTOX®: OnabotulinumtoxinA
  • Dysport®: AbobotulinumtoxinA
  • Xeomin®: IncobotulinumtoxinA

How does BOTOX® work?

BOTOX® blocks the signal from the nerve to the muscles. The injected muscle can no longer contract (tighten) as forcefully, which causes the wrinkles to relax and soften.

BOTOX® can be used on the forehead lines, frown lines, crow’s feet, bunny lines (lines in the nose), chin (for dimpling), skin bands on the neck, and around the mouth (for smoker’s lines and down-turned corners of the mouth). Wrinkles caused by sun damage and gravity often will not respond to BOTOX®. It is important to re-emphasize that BOTOX® is NOT a facial filler (that is, it does not fill existing wrinkles) – it merely relaxes the muscles that are creating those wrinkles.

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