In recognition of Science Week, the UK’s biggest celebration of science, we investigate the ways in which Botulinum Toxin serves a purpose beyond tackling wrinkles.
Produced by clostridium botulinum bacteria, a highly toxic biological substance, Botulinum Toxin’s ability to block the nerve signals which instruct the muscles to contract serve it well as a popular anti-ageing treatment. But this paralysing effect has other uses beyond smoothing foreheads, and can make debilitating and in some cases embarrassing conditions easier to manage.
While there are dozens of conditions which can be alleviated with a quick administration of the renowned toxin, here we focus on just four ways in which Botulinum Toxin can come to the rescue of common complaints.
Patients who suffer from chronic migraines have been entitled to preventative injections on the NHS since 2012. However Botulinum Toxin will only be considered when three alternative drugs have been tried and failed, the patient has a headache that lasts at least 15 days in a month, and they are having problems with withdrawal headaches when coming off painkillers.
Studies showed that adults who had been treated with Botulinum Toxin for migraines reported more pain-free days and took fewer days off work. Doctors believe the improvement is down to a block in the neurotransmitters which carry pain signals from the brain to the nerve endings around the head and neck during a migraine.
Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) affects jaw mobility and can lead to pain around the joint, ear and temple. As teeth grinding and stress conditions including jaw clenching are among the major manifestations of the affliction, Botulinum Toxin can offer a solution by relieving jaw tension in those suffering from TMD.
While a combination of relaxation techniques to help reduce stress and painkillers will likely be the initial course of action, GPs may look at Botulinum Toxin injections if these other measures prove ineffective in the treatment of TMD.
Hyperhidrosis can be due to an unknown cause, the result of another condition or a side effect of medication. Either way, excess sweating is often distressing for those affected, yet treating the condition can be as quick and as simple as administering an injection. Botulinum Toxin works by effectively ‘turning off’ the sweat glands to reduce perspiration in problem areas, which may be the armpit or other parts of the body.
Chicago-based plastic surgeon Dr Anil Shah has been using Botulinum Toxin on patients to limit breakouts in patients with acne. His study of 20 patients showed that one month after application, there was a decrease in sebum production and pore size, both of which contribute to acne.
He stipulates that his treatment is not available for teens – noting that patients over 20 years old will have established hormone patterns which influence skin changes.