Botox: Everything you need to know

Male patient receiving filler (Botox) injections

Are you interested in reducing the appearance of wrinkles, or do you need help treating certain disorders related to the nervous and muscular systems? The solution may be Botox. 

What is Botox?

Botox is one of the most common and popular brands of several injectable neuromodulators that contain botulinum toxin type A. This toxin that temporarily inhibits nerve signals to the muscles has been leveraged for various medical purposes. Notably, one of the most common ways it’s used is to reduce signs of aging where it’s injected — other neuromodulator brands currently on the market are Dysport, Xeomin and Jeuveau. People casually use the term Botox to describe all these products, though Botox is a registered trademark from the company Allergan.

While Botox is more commonly known for its usefulness as a cosmetic anti-aging treatment, what's not nearly as well known is that cosmetic use was not the original purpose of the substance.

What does Botox do?

Botox is a neurotoxin. It targets the nervous system, disrupting the nerve signaling process that stimulates muscle contraction. The drug causes temporary weakening or paralysis of the targeted muscles. The effects are temporary because nerve cells can regenerate the ability to release these signals again or create new nerve endings.

Who might benefit from Botox?

Cosmetic uses of Botox

The primary use of Botox is to reduce the appearance of facial wrinkles.

If you're tired of seeing lines on your forehead, crow's feet or the "11s" between your brows, you may wonder whether it's time to consider the anti-aging procedure.

According to the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, Botox injections are the most popular cosmetic procedure nationwide. In 2021, more than 3.6 million cosmetic procedures involving neurotoxins, such as Botox, were performed.

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Botox treatment works great to address horizontal forehead lines, glabellar lines (commonly called "11s"), crow’s feet, bunny lines around the nose and fine lines around the mouth from pursing your lips. 

Neuromodulators can also be used to treat things other than wrinkles, like a gummy smile or elevation of the eyebrows, or to help soften a square jaw. If your jaw muscles are particularly strong, Botox injections can soften the muscles over time to create a softer, more curved jawline. 

Medical uses of Botox

Health care professionals also use Botox to treat a variety of medical conditions, most of which affect the neuromuscular system, such as:

  • Crossed eyes and eyelid spasms
  • Migraines
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder
  • Foot pain
  • Overactive bladder
  • Stomach issues
  • Spastic muscles (facial synkinesis, blepharospasms, etc.)

What happens during a Botox procedure?

When you visit a certified professional for Botox injection, they’ll clean your skin and place several shots in the treatment area with a very fine needle. Typically, numbing is not necessary as treatment is tolerated very well. However, various methods help make the procedure more comfortable for patients, such as ice, vibrations and topical numbing medications.

What are the side effects from Botox?

While usually minimal, some possible side effects include:

  • Temporary pain
  • Swelling and/or bruising at the injection sites
  • Headaches

Side effects and complications can also occur if the Botox spreads beyond the treatment area, causing temporary unwanted weakness of nearby muscles. In the face, this can include temporary upper eyelid and/or eyebrow drooping. While there aren’t many long-term studies, there don’t appear to be long-term adverse effects of repeated use of Botox.

Is there recovery time or aftercare from Botox?

Patients who receive Botox should expect little to no recovery time. You can resume your normal daily activities right after the procedure, but it's important to allow the neurotoxin injected into your muscles to settle. This means not putting makeup on the area and avoiding touching your face, sweating and lying down for at least two hours after the injections.

Some patients might worry that Botox will give them an unnatural appearance or make it obvious that they underwent a cosmetic procedure, but this isn't the case. The goal is always to achieve an enhanced yet natural appearance.

How soon will you see results and how long does Botox last?

You’ll notice the results in as little as three days, but it can take up to two weeks for the full effect to kick in.

How long it lasts is different for everyone. Most injections last three to six months, with an average of four. It also depends on what areas were injected and how many units were used.

It's important to know that, unlike surgical procedures, Botox injections are not permanent; however, if you’ve had any complications, Botox isn’t reversible. You have to wait until the neurotoxin wears off before those adverse reactions go away. 

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