Botulinum toxin (botox): characteristics and uses of this substance

Botulinum toxin, better known as “botox”, It is a substance widely used in aesthetic medicine, but also in other areas of health such as ophthalmology or pediatrics.

In this article we will learn what it is, what are its effects and the main applications of this substance. We will also see how, in addition to producing benefits, it can also end up being addictive in people obsessed with their physique or afraid of aging.

    Botulinum toxin: what is it and how does it work?

    Botulinum toxin, commonly known as “botox”, is a substance widely used in aesthetic medicine. At the chemical level, it is a neurotoxin made by a bacteria called Clostridium botulinum.

    This substance blocks the release of acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter needed to produce muscle contraction), resulting in temporary muscle paralysis. In other words, that is to say its function is to paralyze or decrease the function of the muscle (Or the muscles) on which it is applied.

    What is this for?

    Its cosmetic use was approved in 2002. Currently, it is considered a very minimally invasive cosmetic treatment, and the most requested in the world. Additionally, botulinum toxin is considered a safe substance if owned correctly and by a professional.

    In addition to being very present in the field of aesthetic medicine, it also helps solve other health problems, such as infantile spasticity.

    Let’s take a look at how botulinum toxin has various uses and applications. Some of them are:

    1. Correct or smooth wrinkles

    Mostly used on the face to correct dynamic or static wrinkles (Expression). Dynamic wrinkles are those caused by muscle activity itself, and static or expression are those caused by the natural aging of the skin.

    But exactly where is botulinum toxin applied on the face? It is mainly applied on the upper half of the face. As a rule, the most common areas of application are two: rooster’s feet and eyebrows.

    2. Ophthalmic problems

    Botulinum toxin is not only used for cosmetic purposes, but is also used in pathologies of a functional type. In the field of ophthalmology, it is used to treat exophthalmos and blepharospasm.

    2.1. Exophthalmos

    An exophthalmos is the projection or exit of the eyeball to the outside; these are the famous “closed eyes”. It can involve one or both eyes, depending on the cause.

    2.2. Blepharospasm

    It is a spasmodic contraction of the muscle around the eyes (Orbicularis muscle), involuntary and repetitive. This contraction causes dystonias, which are strange or abnormal postures and movements.

    3. Infantile spasticity

    Botulinum toxin too it helps to treat certain neurological diseases which are accompanied by muscle hyperactivity, Such as infantile spasticity. This occurs in particular in infantile cerebral palsy and is a movement disorder, associated with the nervous system, which causes certain muscles to tighten and contract.

    Here, botulinum toxin decreases hyperactivity and muscle tone, which allows for longitudinal muscle growth, which helps prevent the fixed contractures inherent in spasticity.

    4. Strabismus

    Strabismus is the deviation from the normal line of sight of one of the eyes (or both), so that the visual axes do not have the same direction (this is called commonly “wink”).

    Botulinum toxin can also be applied to strabismus. How it works? Exercise of a paralyzing effect on cholinergic nerve endings, Which block the flow of acetylcholine, causing muscle relaxation.

    pharmacological effect

    But more precisely, how and where does botulinum toxin work? Pharmacologically, it acts at the level of the neuromuscular junction; in this transition zone or “union” between the muscle and the peripheral nerve, the release of acetylcholine occurs.

    Botulinum toxin blocks the release of acetylcholine in the injected area, resulting in temporary muscle paralysis.

    The effect it produces it does not involve any physical injury to nerve structuresThis is why it is said to be a fairly safe substance.

    Botox addiction

    But botulinum toxin also has “the other side of the coin”. And it is that, in particular in the field of aesthetic medicine, many people become dependent on it.

    People addicted to botox end up sticking to its effects, repeatedly resorting to cosmetic surgery to avoid aging at all costs. This is why one should be careful and consider the possible harmful effects of improper use, because, like everything, nothing more is good.

    So, while it is true that botulinum toxin itself is a safe and minimally invasive substance, addictions will always be harmful, and botox addiction is often linked to another psychological disorder, such as dysmorphophobia or body dysmorphic disorder. It is a somatomorphic disorder characterized by excessive worrying about a real or imagined defect, perceived somewhere in the body.

    Bibliographical references:

    • IMO. Institute of Ocular Microsurgery. (2018). Botulinum toxin.
    • Moguel-Ancuita, S. (2000). Treatment of strabismus with botulinum toxin. Mexican Journal of Pediatrics, 67 (4): 166-171.
    • Pascual-Pascual, A. Herrera-Galant, P. Póo, V., García-Aymerich, M., Aguilar-Barberà, I. Bori-Fortuny, P., García-Ruiz, R. Garreta-Figuera, G, Llances – Melendo, E. de Miguel-Lleó, F., Miquel-Rodríguez, F., Vivancos-Matell, l. (2007). Therapeutic guide for infantile spasticity with botulinum toxin. Journal of Neurology, 44 (5): 303-309.

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