The Fascinating History of Botox

Featured Image Courtesy of Amara Day Spa and Botox

Botox is an FDA approved a drug that causes temporary paralysis in the muscles of the body. It is a neurotoxin developed from purified Clostridium botulinum bacteria.

Yes, that bacteria: the one that lives in the intestines of many animals and can cause a deadly sickness that shuts down the respiratory system. A single gram of the active form of the bacteria could potentially wipe out a million people.

Where did botox originate?

The FDA approved the use of Botox for cosmetic use in 2002. Since that time, millions of people have lined up for the injections, both men, and women. Interestingly, botox wasn’t originally meant to be a temporary fix for annoying facial wrinkles and lines.

Nope, it was originally intended as a treatment for crossed eyes.

The eliminating wrinkles part? Purely an accidental side effect.

In the 1980s, Dr. Alan Scott, an ophthalmologist, went searching for a cure for crossed eyes. When he discovered the temporary paralysis effects of botox, he was able to design not only a treatment for crossed eyes but also facial spasms and spasms of the eyelids. Urban legends tell that his patients noticed their less lined visages within days and joked with the good doctor about returning to his San Francisco office for ‘wrinkle removal.’

Ok, back up! How is putting poison into your body safe?

Botox is safe because most of the clostridium microbes found in nature, as well as the lab-created version, are inert. In other words, harmless. Except for the temporary paralysis when injected under the skin part.

Is botox used for anything besides cosmetic reasons?

Yes, it is! As a medication botox has proven useful in the treatment of migraine headaches, excessive sweating, and overactive bladder. Botox helps with muscle spasms in the back and neck, in the face and eyelids, as well as still being used to treat eye disorders such as crossed eyes.

So it isn’t just movie stars who use botox?

No, not at all. Many people, from many walks of life, take botox injections to help themselves look and feel younger. Other people, however, have discovered that the drug helps ease the pain of a host of maladies and conditions starting with migraines and ending with otherwise-uncontrollable muscle spasms. Botox has a fascinating backstory and a long list of people who are better off because of it.


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Alan B. Scott, MD