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Botox: Using Poison for Beauty

What is Botox?

“Botox is the registered name for Botulinum Toxin type A (Botox Cosmetic) and is a highly potent neurotoxin that has revolutionised the cosmetic industry. First approved by the FDA in 2002, Botox is extremely effective at the temporary removal of wrinkles, achieved by paralysis of muscles underneath the skin surface. The effects of which can last up to four months, but this can vary from patient to patient”

And in a few more words…

For a potentially lethal substance such as Botox, it is surprising that so many people don’t fully appreciate the dangers of receiving treatment. This article discusses the way in which Botox works, the possible complications of treatment and the ways in which these complications can be prevented.

Botulinum toxin (known more commonly by the trade name of Botox) is the most acutely toxic substance on the planet. Few people are aware that a pin head full of the toxin would be sufficient to kill the entire human population of the world! It is even more incredible that in diluted form, Botulinum toxin is regularly used in cosmetic beauty treatment. Provided that Botox is administered by a reputable professional, it is relatively safe and it is one of the more effective ways of removing wrinkles. However, anyone considering Botox treatment should be aware of the facts before committing themselves…

So, how does Botox work?

Botox is a potent neurotoxin that blocks the transmission of impulses along nerves to muscle fibers. In the absence of nerve impulses, muscles are incapable of contraction and become continuously relaxed. This helps to reduce the appearance of skin wrinkles as the muscle underneath maintains a smooth and consistent tone. The muscles are effectively paralysed for weeks or months depending on the dose of Botox that has been administered.

What are the possible complications of Botox treatment?

As a brief indication as to some possible side effects, the following information is published with each dose of the medication and is a suggested read before each application of Botox:


BOTOX® and BOTOX® Cosmetic may cause serious side effects that can be life threatening. Call your doctor or get medical help right away if you have any of these problems any time (hours to weeks) after injection of BOTOX® or BOTOX® Cosmetic:

  • Problems swallowing, speaking, or breathing, due to weakening of associated muscles, can be severe and result in loss of life. You are at the highest risk if these problems are pre-existing before injection. Swallowing problems may last for several months
  • Spread of toxin effects. The effect of botulinum toxin may affect areas away from the injection site and cause serious symptoms including: loss of strength and all-over muscle weakness, double vision, blurred vision and drooping eyelids, hoarseness or change or loss of voice (dysphonia), trouble saying words clearly (dysarthria), loss of bladder control, trouble breathing, trouble swallowing. If this happens, do not drive a car, operate machinery, or do other dangerous activities”

As with any treatment involving drugs, Botox can precipitate an allergic response in some individuals. This can be caused by the Botulinum toxin itself or a range of other substances used in the injection formula. Symptoms of an allergic reaction vary from one individual to another; the presence of a rash and/or swellings are indicators of an inflammatory allergic response and should be checked by a qualified physician.

Rarely, it is possible for anaphylactic shock to develop. This is an extreme allergic reaction that results in swelling (and possible obstruction) of the upper airways, rapid loss of blood pressure and possible death if not treated immediately.

The most severe complication is a condition known as Botulism. This is a condition of acute poisoning caused by the Botulinum toxin escaping the site of initial injection. Botulism is a life threatening condition caused by widespread muscle paralysis throughout the body. As the heart and intercostals (muscles which raise your ribcage and allow breathing to occur) are both made of muscle tissue, cardiac and respiratory arrest may occur.

How can the risk of complications be reduced?

As a patient receiving treatment, you are entirely at the mercy of the practitioner. The best way of preventing complications is to choose a reputable and qualified practitioner that has a successful track record with Botox treatment. Ask to see evidence of qualifications if in doubt, and do a thorough internet search of the practitioner and their business before committing yourself to any form of treatment. A reputable practitioner will be more than happy to provide such details when asked. If they’re unwilling, evasive or unable to provide evidence of their experience, walk away.

Are there any other drawbacks to Botox?

Although Botox treatment is an effective way of temporarily removing wrinkles, it does have drawbacks. Paralysis of facial muscles can lead to an unnatural appearance and an inability to express emotions. The extent of this problem depends on the dose of Botox administered; unfortunately as everyone is unique, it is very difficult to tailor doses to exactly suit an individual. As a result, most physicians will administer a dose that will definitely cause an effect but may stray towards over-effect. The best advice is to stay with the same physician over multiple courses of treatment so they are able to gauge the appropriate dosage more accurately for you.

Is Botox popular?

You bet! By 2018 the global market for facial aesthetics is conservatively forecast to reach $4.7 billion, of which the global Botox® market is forecast to account for an incredible $2.9 billion.

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