Botulinum Toxin Injections—Medical

Definition

Botulinum toxin is made from a type of bacteria. It is a toxin that affects nerves. An injection puts this toxin into muscle. There, it blocks the release of the chemical signal from the nerves to muscles. This will decrease the muscle contraction.

Botulinum toxin is used for cosmetic and medical reasons. The injection process is often called botox injection, although any brand of the botulinum toxin may be used.

Reasons for Procedure

The injection is FDA-approved to treat:

The injection has also been used to treat other conditions, such as:

  • Tension headaches
  • Achalasia —spasm of esophageal muscles causing difficulties in swallowing
  • Spasmodic dysphonia
  • Muscle spasms due to cerebral palsy
  • Spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis
  • Spasticity in leg and arm muscles due to brain injury/stroke
  • Focal limb dystonias
  • Incontinence due to bladder problems
  • Anal sphincter disorders
  • Peripheral nerve pain
  • Temporomandibular disorder (jaw disorder)
Strabismus
Lazy eye
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Possible Complications

Complications are rare. When they occur, they are temporary and mild. Side effects are related to the site of injection. For example, if injections take place near the eyes, there may be complications with the eyelids or brow line.

Temporary issues may include:

  • Redness
  • Bruising
  • Stinging around the injection sites

The following are less common reactions. They are generally mild and do not last long.

  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Flu -like symptoms
  • Headache

Other complications that may occur include:

  • Excessive weakness of the muscle around the eyes—can cause drooping of the eyelids or obstruction of vision
  • Difficulty swallowing—can occur in patients receiving injections in their neck
  • Compensatory hyperhidrosis—people being treated for hyperhidrosis may develop increased sweat production at another area of the body
  • Excessive weakness or wasting in certain muscles—the injection may slow any improvement in the muscle
  • Neck weakness in people with long, thin necks
  • Risk of the botulinum toxin spreading beyond the injection area—may cause botulism symptoms, including difficulty breathing and death in severe cases. Children with cerebral palsy may be at a higher risk for this side effect.

The toxin can also interact with medications such as antibiotics. Tell your doctor about all of the medications that you are taking.

You should not have botox if you:

  • Have an infection or inflammation in the area where botox will be injected
  • Are sensitive to the ingredients in botox
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding

What to Expect

Anesthesia

Most often, none is given. Some patients may prefer to have the area numbed for comfort. In this case, a topical anesthetic may be used.

Description of the Procedure

A thin needle will be used. The toxin will be injected through the skin into the targeted muscle. You will often need several injections in a small area.

After Procedure

Remember to:

  • Remain upright for several hours
  • Avoid alcohol

How Long Will It Take?

The time needed will depend on the number of sites involved. It is often less than 20 minutes.

Will It Hurt?

You may have some minimal discomfort.

Post-procedure Care

Normal activities may be resumed after the procedure. To promote recovery, follow your doctor's instructions .

The toxin temporarily weakens targeted muscles. The treatment lasts up to four months. With repeated use, the effects may last longer.

Call Your Doctor

Contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Severe lower eyelid droop or obstructed vision
  • Excessive weakness around the injection site
  • Rash or any other sign of an allergic reaction

In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.

Revisions

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This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

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