Not just a pretty face

Tue, Aug 21, 2012, 01:00

Botox is well known for its cosmetic benefits, but it can also be used as a treatment for problems from cerebral palsy to migraine, writes ARLENE HARRIS

SINCE ITS launch a decade ago, Botox has become a household name. Though once the preserve of the rich and famous, this muscle-freezing treatment has become de rigueur for everyone from mega-rich celebrities to the middle class housewife.

But while Botox is renowned for its success in the world of cosmetic surgery, allowing patients a short-term solution to visible wrinkles, its other more clinical uses have only recently come to the fore.

This neurotoxic protein is now being used to treat a variety of ailments including migraine, excessive sweating, chronic pain and even long-term disorders such as cerebral palsy and prostate problems.

John Gillespie is the director of a property company in Dublin and has spent much of his adult life trying to overcome the problems associated with excessive sweating.

Working in a busy industry, he found his self-confidence suffering as a result of his condition. Having tried a variety of different treatments, he resorted to Botox injections three years ago and hasn’t looked back since.

“I have a condition known as hyperhidrosis or excessive sweating which affects my hands really badly,” says the 40 year old. “I had tried everything available on the market, including spray gels, to try to stop the sweating but nothing worked.

“I used to cringe at the end of business meetings when my palms were dripping with sweat and I had to give a handshake.

“I am normally very confident and not nervous in any environment, but due to excessive sweating, my confidence would often be shattered in certain situations.”

After suffering with the condition for years, the father-of-four heard that Botox was an effective treatment and decided to give it a go.

“I started getting injections of Botox into the palms of my hands about three years ago and the procedure has changed my life,” he says. “The Botox basically blocks the sweat – it begins to work immediately and I only need to top up every six months.

“It costs about €900 per treatment so it is expensive, but I think paying €100 per month is well worth it as feeling awkward about shaking hands is now a thing of the past.”

Eimear O’Reilly is a 32-year-old office manager from Dublin. She has been having Botox injections in her forehead for the past eight years in a bid to cure the crippling migraines which were taking over her life.

“I have been suffering from migraine all my life and it can be really horrible,” says O’Reilly.

“It builds up slowly until there is so much pain and you can hardly see for days. I was never able to plan anything in advance because I didn’t know when I would be affected – so it hugely affected my quality of life.

“When I was a child I used to attend Crumlin hospital for medication and doctors put it down to a combination of diet coupled with stress and tension.”

In her early 20s, the Dublin woman decided to try Botox and found that the injections did more than eradicate her headaches.

“When I was 24, I decided to have Botox in my forehead as a means of getting rid of the migraine,” she recalls. “I have been having it once or twice a year since then and it has done wonders for me.

“I never get migraine any more and only suffer from the odd headache. Plus, I get the added bonus of line reduction because the Botox is injected into my hair line – so I am pain free and line free.

“The injections don’t hurt and cost about €400 a session, so . . . I am more than happy with the results.”

Dr Patrick Treacy is the medical director of the Ailesbury Cosmetic Clinic group.

He says that while Botox can be used for a variety of different ailments, patients should choose their practitioner with care and be aware of all the facts before booking any treatment.

“In most countries only a doctor is allowed to administer Botox,” he says. “So it would be better to establish the experience of a doctor before contemplating injections in the hands or feet and other complex areas – particularly as nurses or dentists would not have insurance for these types of procedures and a patient could end up losing power in their fingers for up to six months.”

So before treatment, make sure you know the facts.

Cost of injections vary depending on treatment.

A selection of prices include:

Sweating both arms: €800

Sweating hands: €400 per hand

BTX cosmetic face 1 area: €300

2 areas: €400

3 areas: €500

BTX Migraine: €450

Botox: the facts

Botox is one of the many trade names for the neurotoxic protein called botulinum toxin that is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Botulinum toxin is sold commercially under the brand names Botox, BTXA, Dysport, Myobloc, Neurobloc, Xeomin, Botox Cosmetic and Vistabel.

The protein is used in cosmetic medicine to treat moderate to severe brow furrow (glabellar lines), uncontrolled blinking, lazy eye, wrinkles and facial creases. These procedures use a small amount of diluted botulinum toxin that enables controlled weakening of muscles.

In addition to cosmetic use, Botox is used to treat cervical dystonia, writer’s cramp, excessive sweating, achalasia, (an oesophageal problem), chronic pain, neuropathy and migraine headaches.

For people with overactive bladders, Botox can improve their quality of life, according to researchers from Kings College School of Medicine in London.

Men with enlarged prostates benefit from Botox injections directly into the prostate, a study at University Medical College, Taiwan found.

It usually doesn’t hurt and patients can put on some anaesthetic topical cream beforehand if required.

Botox or Dysport usually lasts cosmetically for four to six months and for sweating up to 10 months.

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