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How Botox Works

Botox is the brand name for a toxin called botulinum toxin A. The toxin is related to botulism, a form of food poisoning. A person who contracts botulism has ingested the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Botulinum toxin A is a neurotoxin (a poison made of protein usually acting on a person's nervous system) made by the Clostridium botulinum bacterium.

Botox is a much smaller and sterilized form of the toxin. When Botox is injected, the toxin A (botulinum has seven toxins: A through G) attaches itself to nerve endings. During unimpeded muscle function, the neurotransmitter acetylcholine is released from these nerve endings, causing muscle contractions. Botox blocks the release of acetylcholine, causing the muscle to become relaxed.

Death from severe poisoning due to botulism is caused by paralysis of the muscles in the chest, causing cessation of breathing. Botox injections are typically localized and are given in extremely low doses. There is very low incidence of side effects from Botox injections. It is impossible to get botulism from a Botox injection.

Botox injections have seen results in treating neurological and muscular diseases, excessive sweating, drooling, and muscle spasms. Botox's primary and most popular use as a drug has been cosmetically, however. Botox's ability to relax constricted muscles tends to lead to a softening of features and a smoother skin surface.

The FDA has approved Botox use for smoothing glabellar lines (lines between the eyebrows) only. Botox injections elsewhere on the body for cosmetic-only reasons are called "off-label."? While these off-label injections are not cleared by the FDA they are not banned either. This is because of the FDA's determination that Botox is safe to use in this small dose, injectable manner.

Wrinkles in the skin are caused by muscle contractions over long periods of time. Botox injections are related to the cessation of these muscle contractions and the smoothing of the skin. Injections are to be given directly to the offending areas. Results will vary, of course, but typically show improvements within a few days and last for up to four months.

Since the injections take such a small amount of time and have little side effects, they are very popular. Consult a board-certified plastic surgeon or other board certified doctor to see if Botox treatments, whether for cosmetic or medical reasons, can be right for you.