Today, the word Botox usually brings only one thought to mind: wrinkle reduction. However, you may or may not know that Botox, or Botulinum Toxin Type A, is a derivative of botulism; a substance sometimes more associated with horror than help.
Botulism, a toxic bacterium, has been known to man for thousands of years. Occurring naturally, especially in improperly preserved foods, the toxin can cause severe illness and even death. In ancient times, men learned how to extract botulism from rancid meat, such as dried blood sausages, to poison their enemies.
Roughly 200 years ago, scientists and physicians began to study the toxin in depth. They discovered that within 18-36 hours of ingestion, subjects would experience double vision, slurred speech, muscle weakness, and ultimately, death.
After years of study, researchers learned that the toxins in botulism come in many forms, and that not all were bad. In the early 1980s, San Francisco ophthalmologist Dr. Alan Scott was the first to utilize Botulinum Toxin Type A. Looking for a cure for Amblyopia and Strabismus, or crossed eyes, Dr. Scott noticed that in small doses, the Botulinum Toxin Type A had the unique ability to relax targeted muscles, thus releasing the effected eye.
In 1987, two Vancouver doctors accidentally uncovered the unexpected aesthetic properties offered by the toxin. Dr. Jean Carruthers was an eye doctor, treating blepharospasm (uncontrollable blinking) with a diluted version of Botulinum Toxin Type A. Over time, she noticed that when the toxin was injected closer to the forehead, wrinkle lines between the brows would go away. Dr. Carruthers’ husband was a dermatologist, and was quick to use his wife’s anti-wrinkle discovery in his own practice. This pair of physicians became pivotal researchers, further developing the Botox we use today across a variety of cosmetic and medical needs.
Approved by the Food and Drug Administration for cosmetic use more than 10 years ago, Botox has grown to become a billion-dollar industry. Today, Botox is America’s number one non-surgical aesthetic treatment. Aside from the cosmetic benefits of modern Botulinum Toxin Type A, smoothing facial lines and wrinkles, the substance is now used to eliminate chronic migraines, ease a spastic bladder, and improve a variety of muscle/movement disorders.