Botulinum Toxin: The History of Botox and Why It Works So Well

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With more than 7 million procedures in a year, Botox is the world’s most popular cosmetic treatment that doesn’t involve a scalpel. In addition to its incredible cosmetic applications, Botox is a scientific achievement with numerous medical applications.

In fact, Botox is made out of the most potent neurotoxin known to man! Sounds incredible? Read on to learn about the history of Botox and why it works so well when it comes to reducing wrinkles!

The Popularity of Botox

Most of us know Botox as a treatment for wrinkles.

However, this incredible substance is used for numerous other cosmetic procedures, but also for lots of other medical applications. Doctors today use Botox to reduce forehead wrinkles, crow’s feet, excessive sweating, and many others.

Even though Botox is an injectable made of a toxic bacterium, the end product is completely harmless. The skyrocketing popularity of Botox has created a new trend that favors injectable cosmetic treatments.

Today, patients of both sexes and across all age groups trust Botox for their cosmetic needs. The combination of safety and powerful results have made Botox the king of 21st-century cosmetic procedures.

But what is Botox, exactly?

The Botulimum Toxin

Botox is made from the botulimum toxin, which is produced by a bacterium known as Clostridium botulinum. Clostridium botulinum’s neurotoxin causes botulism, which is a dangerous and potentially deadly paralytic illness. Simply put, if you eat Clostridium botulinum in the wild, you might die!

When people eat botulimum toxin, they will suffer from extreme weakness leading to paralysis. With enough high dosage, the patient’s lungs will also paralyze, which can lead to death unless they receive immediate medical treatment.

Scientists have known of the properties of botulimum toxin for quite a while, with the first descriptions of the disease dating back to the 16th century. The word “botulimum” comes from the Latin word “botulus,” which means sausage.

The toxin got its name because botulism struck people who consumed raw sausage. Thankfully, botulimum toxin is destroyed when you cook food, so botulism is rare.

Botox Explained

It took scientists centuries to figure out how to harness the power of botulimum toxin for medical purposes. Botulimum toxin is a powerful neurotoxin that can kill you in high doses, but when prepared as Botox, it is harmless and very useful.

Botox is an injectable treatment. It is injected directly into the muscle. After injection, Botox interacts with the local nerves to prevent the release of a neurotransmitter known as acetylcholine.

Our muscles use acetylcholine to coordinate muscle activity. Without it, they just stop working. The trick to Botox’s efficiency is in using it to selectively block specific muscles from working. This focused paralysis stops spasms and smoothes out wrinkles.

This ability of Botox to reduce wrinkles by paralyzing your muscles has made it the only viable alternative to surgical facelift.

In addition to stopping the production of acetylcholine, Botox also blocks the release of several other chemicals, including inflammatory mediators. This makes Botox a viable treatment for a range of other medical conditions.

You don’t have to worry about permanent paralysis though, as the effects of Botox are temporary. A Botox injection will last three to six months, after which the effects will begin to fade rapidly.

Botox may be 100% safe, but there are certain minor adverse effects. These side-effects of Botox have to do with the act of injection and not the actual substance itself.

The most common adverse effects of Botox treatment include:

  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • Muscle weakness
  • Headaches

All the above are temporary and usually resolve themselves hours after the injection.

The History of Botox

People have known of the risks botulism since Roman times.

Even though the Romans didn’t have the concept of toxins or bacteria, they knew that consuming raw meat would often lead to paralysis and death. That is why they used salts we now know as nitrites and nitrates to cure the meat.

In fact, this is how cold cuts were invented!

Doctors in medieval Germany first documented the effects of botulism as we understand it today.

But Clostridium botulinum itself eluded discovery until the 1920s. A scientist named Emile Pierre van Ermengem discovered the bacterium after a deadly outbreak of botulism in Belgium.

During the Second World War, a scientist named Edward Schantz managed to isolate the botulinum toxin in crystalline form. This was, and still is, the most potent toxin concentrate known to man.

In 1977, ophthalmologist Dr. Allen Scott used a tiny dose of botulinum toxin to treat strabismus (cross eyes) without surgery.

During the tests, Dr. Allen Scott noticed that the botulinum toxin reduced wrinkles around the eyes.

Dr. Richard Clark, a plastic surgeon, was the first person who used Botox for cosmetic purposes and published his case study in 1989. Since then, Botox became synonymous with non-invasive cosmetic treatment.

Medical Applications

In addition to its fame in the world of cosmetics and its first use in treating strabismus, Botox has tons of other medical applications.

Right now, Botox is an approved medical treatment for numerous medical conditions, including:

  • Chronic migraines
  • Eye squinting
  • Blepharospasm (eyelid spasms)
  • Excess sweating
  • Bladder incontinence
  • Overactive bladder
  • Idiopathic rotational cervical dystonia (neck and shoulder muscle spasms)
  • Limb spasticity

In addition to the above, doctors may use Botox for a number of off-label procedures. These are not yet approved by the FDA:

  • Hay fever
  • Sialorrhea (excessive saliva)
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Anal fissure
  • Jaw and tongue spasms
  • Laryngeal dystonia (vocal cord muscle spasms)

Easy and Effective Non-Surgical Wrinkle Reduction

The history of Botox is as impressive as the results of a single Botox treatment. As we have seen above, Botox is the safest and easiest non-surgical treatment against wrinkles.

Here at SBC Medical Group, we offer Botox injections along many other personalized aesthetic services. Our goal is nothing less than exceptional results for our clients, with a focus on safety and respect.

Contact us to schedule your consultation today.