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Published: October, 2015; Vol 12, Num 5

Health Benefits from an Unlikely Source

Botox is better known for erasing crow’s feet on celebrity faces than treating symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). However, MS is just one of a number of debilitating medical conditions that this drug – regarded as the fountain of youth because of its ability to make wrinkles disappear – can address. If you have an illness related to nerve disorders, have suffered an injury to your spine from a fall or have painful muscle spasms, Botox injections may be something to discuss with your health care provider.

What Is Botox?

Botox, also called botulinum toxin type A, is made from the same bacteria that causes botulism, a life-threatening illness that fortunately is rare. Botulism affects muscle control and can cause paralysis, including inability to breathe. Most people who die from botulism suffocate.

How Do You Get Botulism?

Botulism (Clostridium botulinum) is found in dirt and in canned food that hasn’t been properly sealed. It can find its way into the bloodstream through cuts and other wounds, and when ingested in contaminated food. You cannot catch botulism from another person.

In the United States, an average of 110 cases of botulism are reported annually to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Low-acid vegetables (like green beans and corn), along with meats, fish and poultry that were home canned without using a pressure canner and commercially canned products that have been damaged are the most common sources of botulism.

Consult The Complete USDA Guide to Home Canning to ensure you are canning safely.

It may seem hard to believe that anything so deadly could also be beneficial, but when formulated as Botox, the paralyzing effects of the botulinum toxin can be put to good use. Botox is a nerve blocker that when injected, causes muscles to temporarily relax. In addition to helping people who have multiple sclerosis, a disease of the central nervous system affecting the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves, Botox has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and most insurance companies as a treatment for coping with health conditions that include:

  • Severe muscle spasms in the neck (cervical dystonia)
  • Severe muscle stiffness in upper limbs (elbows, wrists, fingers)
  • Overactive bladder and incontinence
  • Chronic migraine headaches
  • Crossed eyes, blurred vision and uncontrolled blinking
  • Severe underarm sweating (hyperhidrosis)

After treatment, it takes about two weeks before Botox starts to work. The effects typically last between three to six months. Side effects are usually minor. As with any injection, there may be some swelling or bruising that can be treated with ice packs or an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen. Some patients may also experience flu-like symptoms for several days.

Botox is not a cure-all but its ability to reduce pain and minimize the effects of several chronic conditions can make it possible for some people who would otherwise be sidelined to lead productive lives. If you or someone you love has one of the above conditions and are not responding to routine medical approaches, Botox is a safe and effective treatment that may be worth considering.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]