What Was The Original Purpose Of Botox?


Botox is probably the most well known cosmetic procedure worldwide. It has been around for sometime now, and at one point in the early 00s became associated with the stretched, shiny faces of its celebrity followers.

Thankfully, botox injections have moved on some way since those times, and botox practitioners tend to go for a much more natural look these days.

Many people will know that botox is a medicinal form of a poison, but most people don’t know the history of botox, or what it was originally intended to be used for.

Let’s delve in to what botox is, and where it came from.

What Is Botox?

Botox is short for its full name of Botulinum Toxin, which comes from the bacteria Clostridium Botulinum, which you may have heard of before.

Clostridium botulinum is the bacteria that causes the condition known as botulism. Botulism often comes from food that has gone bad, and can be present in canned or jarred food that hasn’t gone through the canning process effectively, thereby allowing botulism bacteria to grow and affect the person who eats them.

Botulism paralyses the muscles in the body, usually starting in the head and face area, before moving down the body, and it  unfortunately causes death by paralysing the breathing muscles.

Botox is a very small, safe amount of this toxin, that is used either for medical, or for aesthetic reasons.

How Does Botox Work?

Botox is given as an injection into the area that is to be treated, and it works by paralysing the muscle in the area being treated.

It does this by preventing acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter which triggers muscle activity and movement, so therefore without this neurotransmitter, muscle movement ceases.

This means that the muscles in a certain area can be targeted, for example the muscles of the forehead, to stop them moving, and producing wrinkles.

Botox is not permanent, and repeated injections will be needed to maintain the effects it produces. An injection of botox lasts around four months, although it might be slightly shorter or longer, depending on the individual.

Botox can be used as a medical treatment, or cosmetically, such as those offered by RevitalizeYou MD

The History Of Botox

The start of botox discovery really started in 1895, when there was a large outbreak of botulism in Belgium, which led to the death of many people in the local community.

A scientist named Emile Pierre van Ermengem researched the cause of this outbreak, and was the first to pinpoint Clostridium botulinum.

Following this discovery of C.botulinum, scientists the world over were interested in this bacterium, and it’s applications in the medical world.

It was in the 1920s, when Dr Herman Sommer isolated the very first type of botulinum toxin at the University of California in San Francisco.

It would be another twenty years until a different scientist, this time Dr edward Schnatz was able to fully isolated botulinum toxin, and started to explore it’s possibilities.

The First Medical Use Of Botox

The first time botox was used in a medical way was in 1978, when an ophthalmologist – Alan B Scott – began trials on how using botox could help someone suffering with strabismus, or crossed eyes.

The trials were first conducted on monkeys, and botox was approved by the FDA in 1989 to treat both crossed eyes and eye twitches also known as blepharospasm.

The Discovery Of The Cosmetic Use Of Botox

The effects that botox had on facial wrinkles was discovered by accident. In the late 1980s, a Canadian ophthalmologist Dr Jean Carruthers was using botox to treat a patient’s blepharospasm, with great success.

As we know, botox is not permanent, and needs repeated injections to maintain the effects. It was on a return visit, whilst the doctor was administering an injection, that the patient told her that she preferred when the injections were given into her forehead, as it made the wrinkles disappear.

Dr Jean Carruthers was intrigued by her parents’ comments, and discussed it at length with her husband, Dr Alastair Carruthers, who was a dermatologist.

Between them, they devoted a huge amount of their time into researching these effects, and their study was published in 1992.

Botox was a huge success, and at some points the damnd has outstrippped the supply, meaning there has not been enough to go around.

Botox was not approved by the FDA for some time, in fact it wasn’t until 2002 that botox was approved for the treatment of glabellar lines or frown lines, and it was much later in 2013 that it was approved for treating ‘crow’s feet’ or laughter lines.

Despite botox not being FDA approved for these uses, it was used ‘off licence’ for millions of people who enjoyed the wrinkle free appearance it gave them.

The Medical Applications Of Botox

Botox is probably most well known for its cosmetic use, it is widely used as a treatment for many different medical problems.

As well as the eye issues already mentioned, strabismus and blepharospasm, it is also used to treat cervical dystonia, which is when the muscles of the neck suddenly flex and cramp causing a great deal of pain to the patient.

It is used to treat excessive sweating, often in the armpits and hands, and botox is injected into those areas to paralyse the sweat glands and prevent them producing an excessive amount of sweat.

Botox can be used to treat chronic, severe migraines, by injecting into the muscles around the head and neck that are causing the severe pain.

Another, relatively unknown, medical use for botox is to help treat urinary incontinence. The botox is injected around the bladder sphincter muscles  to help them contract and therefore contain any leakage that may otherwise occur.

The Last Word

So, as you can see, botox has been around for a very long time, and although we know it much better for its cosmetic use, it was actually first licensed for medical use, and continues to be used for many medical applications to this day.