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Botox does more than diminish wrinkles

May 18, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Say the word Botox and immediately you think of an injection that smoothes wrinkles. But the drug didn't start out that way and now it's got many more uses.It's known as a wrinkle eraser, but many women don't use Botox for furrowed brows at all. It can help migraines.

"I tried everything and anything," said Martha Fritz, who suffers from migraines.

It can even help with muscle pain.

"I was at the point of desperation," said Cheryl Laureano, who suffers from torticollis.

Some say it even helps with depression.

"I wasn't interested in talking or communicating with friends or family," said Kathleen Delano, who suffers from depression.

Martha gets Botox because migraines stopped her from doing everyday activities. Botox injections have kept her headache-free.

"I don't miss work as much. I don't miss my son's baseball games, so Botox has made a dramatic difference in my life," said Fritz.

It's also made a difference in Cheryl Laureano's life. Cheryl suffers from torticollis. Her neck muscles spasm involuntarily, causing incorrect posture and pain.

"If I were to just completely relax, you see my head just starts turning itself," said Laureano.

The injections stop the problematic muscles from contracting.

"It can improve the contraction of the muscle and improve the head position. Also it can improve the pain," said Dr. Zhigao Huang, neurologist.

The drug also helped with Kathleen Delano's depression.

A small study found Botox relieved depression in nine of 10 women.

"You're basically preventing people from expressing those sad and angry emotions on their face," said Dr. Eric Finzi, dermasurgeon.

But Botox may not come worry-free. A recent study by Italian researchers revealed when the toxin in Botox was injected into mice in comparable doses to those used in humans, it traveled to the brain stem in three days.

Last year, the FDA issued a warning that Botox has been linked to respiratory failure and death. But for these women, the drug has offered relief when nothing else could.

Botox is also being used to treat stroke patients, those with MS and men with enlarged prostates -- although it is not yet FDA approved for any of these conditions.

Web Extra Information:

BACKGROUND:

Botulinum toxin is a medication made from the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, the most toxic known protein. Sold under the brand names Botox, Dysport, Myobloc, Neurobloc and Xeomin, the drug is used to treat muscle spasms. Botox is probably most widely known for its cosmetic purposes, used to soften frown lines. Despite the economic downturn, Botox injections were up 8 percent last year. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, more than 5 million individuals got Botox injections to smooth their wrinkles in 2008. In the 1950s, researchers discovered when small amounts of botulinum toxin type A are injected into overactive muscles, muscle activity subsides. The toxic works by blocking the release of acetylcholine from the nerves to the muscle, preventing it from contracting for three to four months. Botox has many medical applications including the following:

  • Cervical dystonia or spasmodic torticollis: occurs when the neck muscles involuntarily contract, causing abnormal movements and an awkward posture of the head and neck
  • Blespharospasm: excessive blinking
  • Hyperhidrosis: excessive sweating
  • Excessive salivation
  • Achalasia: failure of the lower oesophageal sphincter to relax
  • Migraine and other headache disorders
  • Pediatric incontinence: incontinence from an overactive bladder
  • Enlarged prostate
RELIEVING DEPRESSION:

Dermatologist Eric Finzi, M.D., Ph.D., medical director and president of the Chevy Chase Cosmetic Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland, says Botox may also treat depression. According to him, the facial expression of emotion may play a role in the subjective experience of emotion. A small open pilot study was conducted to determine whether inhibiting the expression of facial frowning could alleviate the condition. Ten depressed patients were treated with botulinum toxin A by having it injected into their glabellar frown lines, which are the lines between the eyebrows. The subjects were between ages 37 and 63 and were all female. Nine of the patients had a unipolar (also known as clinical, major and severe) depression, and one patient had a bipolar disorder. The treatment was tolerated well by all patients with no notable side effects. Nine out of 10 patients were no longer depressed two months after treatment. The one patient who was still depressed -- the person with bipolar disorder -- reported an improvement in mood.

ALLEVIATING MIGRAINES:

Researchers have found that Botox injected into the muscles of the brow, eyes, forehead, side of the head and back of the head near the neck sometimes offers immediate migraine relief that can last for up to six months. In a study at the University of California, Los Angeles, researchers reported 51 percent of 96 patients experienced complete improvement of their migraine pain.

FDA WARNING:

In February 2009, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning against Botox and its competitor Myobloc, saying children given the drug for muscle pain have died. The drug is not approved for use with children, but it is often used to treat severe muscle spasticity in those with cerebral palsy. It has been linked to dangerous botulism symptoms, potentially causing the muscles needed for breathing and swallowing to become paralyzed or weakened

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