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Botox Mention the word, Botox, and most people think it's Hollywood's cure to wrinkles.

True, Botox can be a beauty treatment, but this bacterial toxin is actually being used to treat a number of serious health issues.

People first recognized Clostridium Botulinum, the bacterium that makes Botox, during outbreaks of sausage poisoning in 18th century Germany. It's a deadly food-borne neurotoxin that impairs breathing, and kills its victims rather quickly.

That's because the toxin blocks the release of a transmitter called acetylcholine, which is important for muscle contraction. The toxin immobilizes the muscle so that it does not contract.

In the case of the 18th century Germans, the result was double vision, difficulty speaking, weakness, and trouble breathing. But as a therapeutic, the toxin can relax eye muscles to correct strabismus or misaligned eyes and to prevent uncontrollable blinking that makes it impossible to see.

In fact, in 1989 the Food and Drug administration approved a drug called Oculinum to treat these conditions. Several years later the Allergan company renamed the drug as the familiar, Botox – but not for beauty treatment.

It was first used to treat cervical dystonia or uncontrolled neck spasms.

In 2002, Botox was approved for today's familiar application, as a cosmetic treatment. Two years later it was approved to control excessive underarm sweating. Now there are studies to test Botox on overactive bladders, migraine headaches, and adult spasticity.

Doctors are already using Botox for many other ailments such as chronic low back pain, traumatic brain injury, and stroke. Doctors in some countries outside the US are also using it to treat juvenile cerebral palsy.

It seems improbable that this potentially deadly neurotoxin could have such far reaching therapeutic potential. The hope is that it will.


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Going to the web and searching for information about Botox leads to many websites that declare the wonders of Botox, but it is difficult to sort through them to get objective and accurate information. Here are a few links that you can trust.

National Public Radio reported on the FDA approved and off license uses of Botox here.

For background information, approved indications, emerging uses, side effects and safety as well as links to additional sources of information here.

PubMed Health, provided by the U.S. Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health has extensive information about Botox that you should read before you request it be used to treat you.
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Medline Plus is an excellent source of trusted health information and they also have a Botox web page with a great deal of information and extensive links here.

Discovery Health has a web page entitled "How Botox Works" and it provide a very nice and easy to understand explanation about Botox mode of action.
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