What is Botulinum toxin?
Botulinum toxin is a naturally-occurring toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which is also responsible for botulism (incidentally, this derives its name from the German word for 'sausage disease', because it was first related to poorly-preserved tinned sausages!). The toxin causes muscle paralysis, which can be fatal in botulism if the muscles responsible for breathing are involved. Thankfully, if it is injected into skin rather than swallowed, botulinum toxin remains where it is put and has the anti-ageing effects that have made it so popular for the past three decades.
How does it work?
The toxin works by paralysing signals between nerve endings and muscles. By carefully targeting muscles that cause facial wrinkles, the effect can be to reduce or remove wrinkles and create a more relaxed and youthful appearance.
The rest of your face will not be affected, and you will still be able to laugh, smile and frown but with less wrinkling of the skin in the areas treated.
What areas can be treated?
Botulinum toxin is especially useful for the treatment of frown lines, forehead creases and crows feet, but it is also useful for many other treatments: platysma bands (‘turkey neck’), wrinkles on the sides of the nose (bunny lines), excessive chin wrinkling (yes, that's a thing) and excessive movement of the tip of the nose during speech, to name a few. Botulinum toxin is also very effective for treating some forms of migraine and for treating excessive sweating - in both cases, by paralysing muscle exactly as is the case for its cosmetic uses.
What happens during and after treatment?
The treatment involves a series of injections using an extremely fine needle which Mr Urso-Baiarda sources from the USA. Many patients do not feel this at all, even without local anaesthetic. There may be minor bruising or redness but usually there are no signs that you have had any treatment, and you can return to your usual activities immediately, except for strenuous exercise which should be left for 24 hours.
After treatment, patients notice the onset of muscle weakness after 2-3 days. This becomes maximal at around 10 days after treatment
Duration of effect
Botulinum toxin injections produce a temporary effect that usually lasts 3-4 months - shortest in patients with bulky muscles and no prior treatments, and longest in those with fine muscles and a long history of botulinum toxin therapy.
You should not undergo Botulinum toxin injections if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or have any neuromuscular condition. It is also not recommended if you are taking certain medications, including some antibiotics and blood pressure lowering tablets.
There are no known long-term harmful effects of botulinum toxin treatment. Reported side-effects include mild weakness or the upper eyelid (ptosis) or brow, although these are rare and self-limiting.
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