The Truth About How Botox Works

By: Botox Patient - In: Allergan|Botox Book|Botox Cosmetic|Botox from Canada|Botox Patient

3 Sep 2010

What exactly does Botox do?

One of our goals for this Guide is to give you an accurate description of how Botox works.  Of course before you can decide that a Botox treatment will work for you, you have to know how the drug works.

A simple google search on the topic will give you the impression that the research is easy enough – and it actually is.  Well, at least until you come across a site that says something different.  Then you question which of the two possibilities is correct.

Here’s what most of the sites say: Botox blocks the release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which is the muscle’s signal to contract.  Even the pictures available online all illustrate this cause and effect scenario.  The common visual interpretation depicts Botox as encircling little spheres in the nerve ending that contain the acetylcholine.  By virtue of such encircling, Botox prevents the release of the neurotransmitter and the muscle does not receive its signal to contract.  No muscle contractions mean reduction in wrinkles.  This explanation puts forward the theory that what is affected is the function in the nerve ending.

Now, here is what the dissenting website had to say: the function of Botox is to prevent the receptors on the side of the muscle from recognizing the acetylcholine – which means that the neurotransmitter is still released but the muscle receptors cannot recognize the signal.  In this explanation, the organ affected by Botox is the muscle.

To a non-scientist, the second theory actually makes sense following this logic: Botox is injected into the muscle therefore, the organ affected is the muscle.

However, when one realizes that the Botulinum Toxin, from which Botox is derived, is a neurotoxin, you realize that it can and will have an effect on the functions of neurons so it is plausible that they affect the nerve that is responsible for making the muscles move even if the drug is injected in the latter.

Ah, the confusion.

It doesn’t help that Medline Plus, a website by the US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health, says that Botox treatments work by weakening or paralyzing certain muscles OR by blocking certain nerves.  This technically gives both of the theories leg to stand on.  This now leads me to 3 hypotheses: (1) both of these theories are actually correct and are not mutually exclusive in describing the effects of botox, (2) if only one of them is correct, even these government agencies are unsure which of the two is correct or (3) none of these theories is correct and there is a third explanation out there just waiting to be discovered.

On that note, let the research resume…

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