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Botox and Dysport cosmetic treatment

Botox, Dysport and Vistabel are trade names for botulinum toxin type A, a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum.

They are used in non-surgical cosmetic procedures for wrinkles and work by making skin look smoother and reducing the signs of ageing.

The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) says that although there are different trade names for botulinum toxin, the injections are commonly referred to as 'Botox injections' irrespective of the product used.

Small, diluted amounts of the toxin are injected into specific muscles causing controlled weakening of the muscles.

Botulinum toxin also has medical uses. Botulinum toxin is available on the NHS in parts of the UK, or privately, for some medical conditions, including chronic migraine headaches, excessive sweating, urinary incontinence, MS and muscle spasms.

How does botulinum toxin work?

Botulinum toxin blocks signals from the chemical acetylcholine to the nerves to the muscles. The injected muscles can no longer contract, which can cause wrinkles to relax and soften.

In the cosmetic setting, 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 botulinum toxin.

How is the procedure performed?

The procedure takes only a few minutes and no anaesthetic is required. The toxin is injected with a fine needle into specific muscles with only minor discomfort. ‘Botox’ usually takes effect 24-72 hours after it is injected.

How long does a ‘Botox’ injection last?

The effects of ‘Botox’ injection on wrinkles often last from three to four months. As muscle action gradually returns, lines and wrinkles begin to re-appear. The lines and wrinkles may appear less severe with time because the muscles are being trained to relax.

What are the risks of ‘Botox’?

In very rare cases, nearby muscles can be paralysed causing facial weakness. With injections above the eyebrows, slight but temporary drooping is possible. Any facial lack of symmetry may be highlighted after ‘Botox’ injections.

If ‘Botox’ is given too often, resistance to the treatment may build-up.

Who should not have ‘Botox’?

Patients who are pregnant, breastfeeding, taking some muscle relaxants or antibodies, or have a neuromuscular disorder should not use ‘Botox’ for cosmetic purposes.

Is ‘Botox’ for cosmetic purposes regulated?

People providing cosmetic injections of ‘Botox’ don’t have to be registered or regulated in the same way as health professionals. However, there is a voluntary register and quality assurance mark called ‘Treatments you can trust’ set up by Independent Healthcare Advisory Services (IHAS), which represents private health providers and is backed by the Department of Health.

Some health professionals, including doctors and dentists, do offer cosmetic ‘Botox’ injections. In 2012 the rules were tightened by the General Medical Council. Doctors must see their patients face-to-face before prescribing ‘Botox’ injections or other injectable cosmetics and they are banned from prescribing ‘Botox’ by phone, email, video link or fax.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on February 24, 2017

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