Botulinum A, better known as Botox, is a toxin that has been used for many years to reduce lines and give the face a more youthful look. It works by paralyzing the muscles in the face to prevent the contractions that create the lines. But this same feature has been found to be effective for a broad range of other medical problems. These terms are considered “off label” because they were not approved for the original purpose. Medical professionals are learning that Botox can be used to treat many other medical conditions, besides just wrinkle reduction.
Chronic Migraine Headaches
Migraine headaches can be debilitating, with intense pain, nausea, vision problems and extreme sensitivity to light and sounds. Individuals with chronic migraines can have these symptoms for up to 72 hours, several times each month, which can affect their work and personal lives in negative ways. Medications are available, but these drugs are not effective in all patients. When Botox is injected into specific areas, the compound enters nerve endings and blocks the chemicals that transmit pain signals to the brain. It is generally administered in a series of injections that effectively prevent migraines headaches from occurring.
Some individuals experience an intense urge to urinate that occurs frequently and may lead to urinary incontinence. This condition, called “overactive bladder” is caused by a dysfunction in the muscles that contract the bladder. It can be caused by medications, stones in the bladder, declining cognitive function and other issues that are not well understood. Medication and behavioral training can help overactive bladder symptoms, but some individuals need additional treatment. Botulinum A, or Botox, is used to calm the bladder muscle, relieving the feelings of urgency. Botox can help individuals engage in their normal activities, with fewer trips to the bathroom.
Individuals who have problems with excessive sweating that cause embarrassing wetness and odor can benefit from Botox injections into sweat glands. The injections block the nerves in the sweat glands, reducing the chemical reaction that causes excessive sweating. Individuals can go about their daily tasks, without worrying about stains or clothing or other problems from excessive perspiration.
Strabismus (Crossed Eyes)
Botox has also found an off-label use as a treatment for an eye condition caused “strabismus,” crossing of the eyes. In this condition, the muscles of the eyes do not coordinate normally, leaving one eye unable to track effectively. Botox is injected into the eye muscle, which paralyzes it. As a result, other eye muscles take over the job, improving eye coordination significantly.
Severe Neck Spasms
Chronic neck pain has become a common problem for individuals who work at computers throughout the day. Holding the head and neck in the same position for long periods can lead to spasms of the muscles and constant neck discomfort. Botox can be used to help relieve the spasms in neck muscles. Injections of the compound help to paralyze neck muscles, providing pain relief, and physical therapy techniques can be used to strengthen muscle function.
In a surprising study, researchers found that facial expression is not only indicative of an individual’s mood, it can also cause the mood to occur. This result led medical researchers to explore the use of Botox in an off-label experiment. Injecting the compound into specific muscles in the face paralyzes muscles that are associated with negative emotional states. The experiment resulted in improved mood in treated individuals, which is now being used to help patients with depression who have not found relief in standard medications to treat the problem.
The ability of Botox to block nerve signals is also being used after cardiac surgery to prevent abnormal heartbeats, called atrial fibrillation, that sometimes occur. This treatment can reduce the number of complications that commonly occur after these surgeries.
Another off-label use of Botox that is being investigated is for premature ejaculation problems. This condition occurs when ejaculation occurs prior to or just after penetration. Premature ejaculation can be the result of urological issues, thyroid issues or psychological issues. Botox is used to block the nerves and weaken the muscles involved in ejaculation, which can aid in providing a more satisfying sexual relationship.
Children born with cleft palate that receive surgery are often left with scarring that can impact their self-image and ability to function well socially. Botox is used off-label to reduce the appearance of these scars, allowing more normal movement of facial muscles, so individuals can feel more attractive and confident.
Botox continues to be investigated as a treatment for a variety of different conditions. The compound’s unique properties allow it to be used as a safe and effective method for managing these disorders when used correctly. These off-label uses are becoming standard treatment to help individuals manage muscle and dermatological problems that are difficult to treat with other means. Botox will continue to offer new solutions in surprising ways in the future. Contact the offices of Dr. Frankel at 310.552.2173 for more information.