Botulinum Toxin Type A is most commonly thought of as an injectable treatment used to reduce the appearance of wrinkles. However, the toxin has many other beneficial uses to improve our health from top to toe:
In 1992, Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr William Binder noticed that his patients who received Botox for wrinkles also reported having fewer headaches. Botox has since been used to help people with chronic migraines, and was approved for treatment by the NHS in 2012.
Doctors aren’t entirely sure why Botox seems to help people with migraines, and some even think it’s a placebo. However, experts suggest it might relax the muscles around the head, reducing blood pressure within the brain, while others think that Botox prevents the nerves from sending out the signals that cause a migraine.
- Bell’s palsy
Bell’s palsy is a facial nerve paralysis which causes one half of the face to droop. It happens when a cranial nerve is stimulated, which can occur if someone has diabetes, after the transmission of certain viruses like Lyme disease, or during pregnancy.
While Bell’s palsy is usually temporary, Botox is an effective and safe way to treat Bell’s palsy. The toxin relaxes the muscles and prevents them from contracting, which helps to address asymmetric facial movement.
- Overactive bladder and incontinence
An uncontrollable urge to urinate affects 17 percent of women over age 45 and 25 percent of women over age 75. There have been a couple of recent studies revealing the impact of Botox for women with overactive bladders or incontinence.
A study of nearly 400 women suggested that regular Botox injections worked better than a surgically implanted nerve stimulator, a far more invasive treatment, to help women with severe incontinence. They discovered that Botox reduced the number of symptoms, and led to higher levels of treatment satisfaction.
An additional study treated women who had overactive bladders with Botox. 70 percent of the participants reported three leaks a day compared with their average of five leaks a day at the start of the study. However, doctors warn that too much Botox can shut down the bladder too much, and people may need to use a catheter.
- Crossed eyes
The first ever medical use of Botox was in 1981, and it was used to treat people with strabismus, or crossed eyes. Botox is used as a long term solution to relax the eye muscles.
Botox has also been approved to treat blepharospasms, a condition which causes abnormal contraction of the eyelid muscles. The toxin produces a temporary paralysis, blocking how the nerves communicate with the muscles. This is useful to treat muscles when they do something they shouldn’t, such as spasming.
- Excessive sweating
While sweating is necessary for our bodies to maintain healthy temperature levels, repeated Botox treatments for hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, have been shown to be completely safe. Botox was approved to treat hyperhidrosis in 2004, after doctors noticed patients being treated for facial spasms were sweating less.
Botox has been shown to reduce sweating in the areas injected by as much as 87 percent, which increases by up to 90 percent in the hands. Botox can be used in the armpits, soles of the feet, scalp and even scrotum (a treatment known as scrotox!)
- Vocal cords
Spasmodic dysphonia is a disorder of the vocal cords, where the muscles that generate a person’s voice can spasm. This can cause breaks or interruptions every few sentences. The disorder is due to abnormal signals from the brain, and can be controlled with Botox. Injecting Botox into the vocal cords weakens or paralyses the muscles, which helps prevent muscle spasms.
Botox can be injected into the salivary glands to treat hyper-salivation. It works by paralysing the nerves and stopping them from over-producing saliva.
This is particularly helpful for people with Parkinson’s disease, who can have problems with muscle function and may swallow less frequently than normal, which can cause drooling. In a study from 2006, 32 people with Parkinson’s disease who were experiencing excessive drooling were treated with Botox. The researchers found that after treatment, people drooled less and produced less saliva.
- Painful sex
Some women experience muscle spasms on their pelvic floor or contractions of the vagina, which can make sex very painful. Although Botox hasn’t been approved by the FDA (the US Food and Drug Administation) for this use, doctors have found that Botox injections can ease the pain by making the muscles stop contracting. While some women may need the injections every six months, experts have found others might only need them every couple of years to experience pain-free sex.
Depression is another condition which Botox hasn’t been approved for usage, but doctors report seeing benefits. In a 2014 study, researchers injected Botox or a placebo in the muscles in the area between the eyebrows on 74 people with depression. The researchers found that amongst the people injected, symptoms decreased by 47 percent six weeks after treatment, compared with 21 percent in the placebo group. This might be as simple as stopping people from frowning. Greater levels of frowning are believed to contribute to depression, and so reducing the amount people can move their brows may have put people in a better mood.
- Childhood constipation
Constipation in children is a common problem, and can usually be treated with a few simple diet swaps. However, for children with severe constipation, scientists have suggested that Botox could be a solution. 2018 study found that Botox was effective for more than half of the 164 children treated with the toxin the sphincter. However, it was less beneficial for children with incontinence.