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How Does Botox Work?

Brian D. Cohen, MD discusses how botox works and what it's used for.

What exactly is Botox and how does it work?

Anti-aging is big business! Globally, the anti-aging market is expected to surpass the $300 billion mark in less than five years. Surgical alternatives, like Botox, account for an increasingly significant chunk of that market and are continuing to grow in popularity. In fact, the demand for Botox has increased by 200% since the year 2000 and is now the most requested non-surgical cosmetic procedure in the U.S.

Everyone has heard of Botox, whether from their own personal experience, that of a friend or family member or from media sources. But, how much do you really know about this substance, which is actually a neurotoxin? 

What is Botox, Exactly? 

Millions of people get Botox injections to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and lines, but it would be interesting to discover just how many of them know that the active ingredient of Botox is Clostridium botulinum, which under the right conditions can cause botulism. A common phrase associated with the risk versus benefit relationship found with Botox is “the dose makes the poison.” Properly purified and delivered in extremely minute dosage amounts, Botox has been used safely and successfully for many years. 

The Belgian bacteriologist, Émile Pierre-Marie van Ermengem, identified Clostridium botulinum in 1895 during an outbreak of botulism. It wasn’t until the 1970s that researchers began testing the botulinum toxin for the treatment of strabismus, more commonly referred to as crossed eyes, and discovered that it had the interesting side effect of reducing the wrinkles in the area above the nose and between the eyebrows. Not surprisingly, it did not take long before the potential as a non-surgical, anti-aging cosmetic procedure was recognized. Botox has since been approved by the FDA for a wide variety of applications.

Tiny needles are used to inject low doses of Botox under the skin. This interferes with the communication between the nerves and the muscles near the injection point and results in the muscles not contracting to the extent that they would without the injection. Wrinkles and lines disappear or are reduced and the face takes on a smoother, more youthful appearance. 

Botox injections take very little time and because they are so minimally invasive can often be done on a break and then the patient return to work. Many people call them the “lunchtime facelift” because you would actually have time to get the injection and grab lunch without having to request any additional time off. 

Conditions Treated with Botox

Although the vast majority of people look to Botox to improve their appearance by reducing the signs of aging, mainly on the face and neck, there is actually a wide range of conditions that it is used to treat. Some of the more common ones include:

  • Chronic migraine headaches
  • Twitching around the eyes 
  • Lazy eye 
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Cervical dystonia, which are involuntary contractions of the neck muscle
  • Cerebral palsy and other neurological conditions associated with uncontrolled muscle contractions 
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Hyperhidrosis, which is excessive sweating

One thing to be aware of is that the popularity of Botox tends to lull people into a false sense of security and diminish the importance of making sure that your treatment is done in the safest manner and that it is what is most appropriate for you. Make sure that you work with only a highly skilled and experienced physician that you trust. 

Dr. Brian D. Cohen is a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon with extensive training in cosmetic/reconstructive plastic surgery and has had years of experience performing a wide array of cosmetic surgery procedures, specializing in procedures of the face, eyes, nose, breast and body and is known for his exemplary and compassionate care by his patients. Knowing that Dr. Cohen has been selected by his peers in Super Doctors for 7 years in a row in 2019 gives you the confidence that he is highly respected for his performance in his specialty.

Information on locations and office hours for Cohen Plastic Surgery can be found by clicking here

Posted in: BOTOX

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