Botulinum toxin as a cosmetic treatment has been around for quite some time. It is a purified protein derived from bacteria. Its first therapeutic use, in the 1980s, was in treating crossed eyes and rapid blinking. In 1989, studies first emerged about its effectiveness easing wrinkle lines when injected into facial muscles. The Botox craze was born.
Botox is perhaps the best-known botulinum toxin formulation, and has been around commercially the longest. Officially a neurotoxin, meaning an inhibitor of nerve tissue function, Botox is widely used to treat wrinkles. It works by blocking the signal to “contract!” or “scowl!” from the brain to the muscle.
An injection of botulinum toxin around troubling facial lines – such as scowl and frown lines between the eyebrows and surrounding the mouth – causes the wrinkle-causing expressions to ease and the resulting wrinkles to stop appearing.
Recently, two new botulinum toxin formulations have received FDA approval for cosmetic treatment. Xeomin (ZEE-oh-min) and Dysport (DIS-port) are treatments that, like Botox, use botulinum toxin for treatment of wrinkles (and excessive sweating and some jaw disorders).
Xeomin, newly announced from Merz Pharmaceuticals, is a botulinum toxin preparation that is used at the same rate as Botox cosmetic. However many units a patient required of Botox, he or she will receive the same number of Xeomin units.
Dysport is administered somewhat differently. Approximately 2.5 units of Dysport correspond to one unit of Botox or Xeomin.
Botox and Dysport vials contain, in addition to the botulinum toxin, a substance called albumin. This is a protein found in the blood. Its presence in Botox and Dysport vials makes the chemical stay stable in its jar between uses. Xeomin, on the other hand, just contains boltulinum toxin and has no additives.
All botulinum toxin formulations carry some risk of side effect with treatment. These include dry mouth, fatigue, headache, nausea, neck pain, pain, redness, bleeding at injection site, swelling, or tenderness at the injection site, sinus inflammation, sore throat, stiff or weak muscles at or near the injection site. Very rare but serious side effects include allergic reactions, difficulty swallowing or breathing, dizziness, drooping affected area, facial paralysis, fainting, loss of bladder control, loss of strength, seizures, severe or persistent muscle weakness, shortness of breath, slow heartbeat, speech changes or problems, vision changes or problems, wheezing.