Botox works by blocking nerve signals to the muscles at the injection site. The affected muscle therefore cannot contract and allows the wrinkles to relax and soften. The effects of a Botox injection can last from three to six months, but after each injection, the wrinkles return less severely, as the muscles are subsequently trained to relax.
Doctors use Botox in small doses to treat a number of health problems and aesthetic concerns, including:
- Temporary removal of facial wrinkles
- Severe underarm sweating
- Cervical dystonia (neck and shoulder contractions)
- Blepharospasm (uncontrollable blinking)
- Strabismus (misaligned eyes)
- Migraine headaches
- Neuropathy (nerve disorder)
- Achalasia (esophagus disorder)
- Overactive bladder
Botox is actually short for Botulinum Toxin, a neurotoxin that is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. The purified protein can come in many brand names. The most popular and well studied is Botox Cosmetic. When injected in small amounts, it prevents muscles from contracting by blocking signals from the nerves to the muscles. This allows wrinkles to relax and soften and therefore creates a more youthful appearance. In fact, Ophthalmologists were the first medical specialists to begin injecting Botox for both medical and aesthetic purposes in the early 1980’s.
For muscles to contract, nerves release a chemical messenger, acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter). This is then attached to receptors in the muscles that cause the muscle to shorten and contract. When Botox is injected, it stops the release of acetylcholine thereby preventing the muscle from contracting. It’s a simple solution to an age-old problem.