While Botox (botulinum toxin) is most well known as a wrinkle-reducing treatment, you might be surprised at what other conditions the drug is used to treat. For one of the ailments below, Botox is not approved for that purpose.
1 Excessive Sweating (Hyperhidrosis)
The FDA approved Botox for treatment of severe primary axillary hyperhidrosis (excessive underarm sweating) in 2005. It is approved for this treatment in 20 countries. According to the International Hyperhidrosis Society, research shows that Botox use results in an 82 to 87% decrease in excessive underarm sweating. Results become apparent after 2 to 4 days and can last up to 12 months, at which time the injection will need to be repeated. In the case of excessive hand sweating, research indicates that Botox is 80 to 90% effective and lasts about 6 months. Botox can be used on the head and face to prevent excessive sweating. However, there is a risk that Botox can affect other facial muscles, resulting in asymmetry. Lastly, Botox can be used for excessive sweating of the feet, but it only results in about 50% satisfaction and the injection is more painful when given in the foot.
2 Overactive Bladder (Urinary Incontinence)
Botox was approved by the FDA for overactive bladder in January 2013. The condition causes the bladder to contract too often without warning, which leads to a constant urge to urinate and/or causes leakage. A study, funded by Botox maker Allergan (so consider that Allergan financially benefits from more uses of Botox), found that 9 out of 10 patients saw a 50% or greater drop in daily urinary incontinence. Incontinence completely stopped in between 44% and 52% of patients. Another study showed a consistent drop in daily incontinence with 1 injection producing stable results for a year among one-third of patients. A third study, however, found that 1 in 5 incontinence patients needed catheterization despite Botox injections.
3 Voice Tremors (Spasmodic Dysphonia)
Studies indicate that Botox injections can successfully treat voice tremors. In a 2004 study, Botox treatment was successful in 50 to 65% of patients. Thirty to 50% of patients showed improvement on an objective basis, and 65 to 80% subjectively reported improvements based on their own assessment. Botox is not approved by the FDA for this purpose.
Many conditions cause spasticity — a muscle control disorder characterized by tight or stiff muscles and sustained muscle contraction — including multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, stroke and spinal injuries. The brain sends signals to muscles through nerves to contract or move. These messages are sent from the nerves to the muscles by a chemical called acetylcholine. Botox works by blocking the release of acetylcholine to the nerves so muscles relax, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
5 Cervical Dystonia
This condition causes muscles in the neck and shoulder to involuntarily pull, leading to head tilting and turning. Botulinum neurotoxin injections have been used since the late 1980s to treat cervical dystonia, according to the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation. A 2006 review of trials found that the injections led to an improvement in abnormal posture and movements, as well as reduced pain. Also, long-term follow-up of patients treated for up to 20 years with botulinum therapy found that the benefits of the medication were consistent and a risk of immunoresistance very small.
6 Crooked or Crossed Eyes
Botox is injected into the eye’s in-pulling muscle to weaken it. The Botox wears off, but in the meantime the outward-pulling muscle strengthens itself and gives the brain a chance to regain control of binocular vision and eye alignment, according to information from Boston Children’s Hospital.
Shawna De La Rosa is a freelance writer living and working in the Seattle area. A true Pacific Northwestern, when she’s not writing she spends her time running, hiking, kayaking and watching her sons’ sporting events while holding an umbrella.