Content provided by Cleveland Clinic.

Botox is the brand name of a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. In large amounts, this toxin can cause botulism, which you probably associate with food poisoning. Despite the fact that one of the most serious complications of botulism is paralysis, scientists have discovered a way to use it to human advantage. Small, diluted amounts can be directly injected into specific muscles causing controlled weakening of the muscles. The result is several months of fewer wrinkles and the more youthful look many strive for.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved such usage in the late 1980s upon the discovery that Botox could stop ailments like blepharospasm (uncontrolled blinking) and strabismus (lazy eye). Cosmetic physicians have now been using Botox for years to successfully treat wrinkles and facial creases. In April 2002, Botox gained FDA approval for treatment of moderate-to-severe frown lines between the eyebrows called glabellar lines. But Botox is often used for other areas of the face as well, in addition to its many medical uses, including treatments for excessive sweating and migraines.

Learn the answers to your questions about this cosmetic treatment – from what to expect during the procedure, to possible side effects and who should not receive Botox injections.

How does Botox work?

Botox blocks signals from the nerves to the muscles. The injected muscle can no longer contract, which causes the wrinkles to relax and soften. It is most often used on forehead lines, crow”s feet (lines around the eye) and frown lines. Wrinkles caused by sun damage and gravity will not respond to Botox.

How is the procedure performed?

The procedure takes only a few minutes, and no anesthesia is required. Botox is injected with a fine needle into specific muscles with only minor discomfort. It generally takes three to seven days to take full effect. It is best to avoid alcohol at least one week prior to treatment. Aspirin and anti-inflammatory medications should be stopped two weeks before treatment as well in order to reduce bruising.

What are the side effects of Botox?

Temporary bruising is the most common side effect. Headaches, which resolve in 24 to 48 hours, can occur, but this is rare. A small percentage of patients may develop eyelid drooping, which usually disappears in three weeks. The eyelid drooping is usually caused by migration of the Botox. For this reason, you shouldn”t rub the treated area for 12 hours after injection or lay down for three to four hours. There have been no allergies associated with Botox to date.

Who should not receive Botox injections?

Patients who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have a neurological disease should not use Botox. Since Botox doesn”t work for all wrinkles, a consultation with a doctor is recommended.