Botox is an injectable drug that’s often used for cosmetic results. It is the brand name for onobotulinumtoxin A, which is a neurotoxin produced by Clostridium botulinum, a type of bacteria. Also called botulinum toxin, onobotulinumtoxin A temporarily paralyzes muscles by blocking nerve signals.
Botox is widely recognized for its use in cosmetic procedures to reduce the appearance of facial wrinkles. It has been used medically to treat certain neurological conditions for far longer.
When healthcare professionals use Botox in this way, it’s often known as chemodenervation with Botox or simply as botulinum toxin injection. It works by paralyzing the muscles, just like it does cosmetically.
In general, chemodenervation is used when standard treatments are unable to provide relief. Read on to learn which disorders chemodenervation treats, along with precautions for and common questions about this treatment.
Is chemodenervation the same as Botox?
Chemodenervation and Botox are the same. Both procedures use onobotulinumtoxin A, or botulinum toxin.
The main difference is why each procedure is used. Chemodenervation is used for managing medical disorders, whereas Botox is used to reduce and smooth wrinkles in areas of the face and body, such as the neck.
Chemodenervation is used to treat or manage many conditions. Some of the Botox medical uses include treating or managing:
- Dystonia: Dystonia causes uncontrolled or involuntary muscle contractions.
- Hemifacial spasms: Hemifacial spasms happen when muscles on one side of the face involuntary contract. Chemodenervation blocks the nerves in these muscles, which temporarily paralyzes them.
- Hyperhidrosis: Chemodenervation is used to manage severe hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, that doesn’t respond to topical treatments. It does this by reducing the activity of sweat glands.
- Overactive bladder: An overactive bladder happens when a person experiences involuntary contractions of the detrusor muscle, which forms the wall of the bladder. By paralyzing this muscle, chemodenervation can help control sudden urges to urinate.
- Anal sphincter spasms: Spasms of the anal sphincter muscle, which is located at the end of the rectum, can lead to many health conditions, including constipation, anal fissure, incontinence, and bowel obstruction. Chemodenervation can treat these spasms.
- Chronic migraine: Chemodenervation can help manage chronic migraine episodes and headaches by blocking pain signals to your brain.
- Strabismus: Strabismus, or crossed eyes, may result from nerve damage or muscle weakness in the eye. Chemodenervation may help by paralyzing certain muscles, allowing other muscles to take over and align the eye.
- Neurological disorders: Chemodenervation may be used for treating severe rigidity due to Parkinson’s disease or other neurological disorders.
- Blepharospasm: Blepharospasm causes involuntary blinking or eyelid twitching. Chemodenervation with Botox can manage the condition by relaxing the eyelid muscles.
Chemodenervation involves an injection of botulinum toxin, a type of neurotoxin. The site of the injection depends on the condition being treated.
When injected into a specific muscle or muscle group, the botulinum toxin prevents nerves from releasing neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are signaling molecules that send messages between the nerves.
Botulinum toxin blocks several neurotransmitters. It mainly prevents the release of acetylcholine, the main neurotransmitter of the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the part of the nervous system that controls functions like muscle contractions and pain perception.
By blocking acetylcholine and other neurotransmitters, botulinum toxin temporarily reduces muscle activity and pain. This can help manage involuntary muscle movements and pain in certain medical conditions.
When done by an experienced professional, chemodenervation is considered very safe.
Chemodenervation may involve higher doses of botulinum toxin than cosmetic procedures using Botox. Yet potential side effects depend on the location of the injection. For example, if it’s injected near the muscles that control eye movements, it could cause double vision or other visual issues.
To reduce the risk of side effects, it’s important to follow certain precautions before starting the procedure. This includes following your doctor’s instructions and telling them vital information, such as if you:
- are trying to conceive or are pregnant or nursing
- have had any previous adverse reactions to botulinum toxin
- have had recent surgeries in the area that’s being treated
- are taking any medication, including over-the-counter supplements
- have other medical conditions
You might be asked to temporarily stop taking certain medications because some may increase the risk of bleeding.
In general, chemodenervation is an option for people with certain neuromuscular conditions.
You might be candidate for chemodenervation if:
- Standard therapies do not work to manage your symptoms.
- You are not pregnant or nursing.
- You don’t have other neurological diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
- You have no allergies to botulinum toxin.
- You aren’t prone to keloidal scarring.
- You understand the possible side effects and risks.
If you have a neurological disorder and think you might benefit from chemodenervation, speak with your primary care doctor. They can determine if you’re a good candidate for the procedure and recommend you to a specialist.
Typically, a neurologist will perform chemodenervation. If you already have a neurologist, you can also ask them about it.
In some cases, a medical professional specializing in your condition will perform the procedure. For example, if you have an overactive bladder, a urologist might provide the treatment.
Below are common questions and answers about chemodenervation:
Is chemodenervation a surgery?
Chemodenervation is a nonsurgical procedure. It’s a minimally invasive treatment that involves an injection.
Is chemodenervation permanent?
Chemodenervation is temporary. The effects typically last for 3 to 6 months, though the exact duration depends on the person and condition.
How is chemodenervation performed?
A chemodenervation is usually done at a doctor’s office. Your medical professional will start by cleaning the treatment area. Next, they’ll use a thin needle to inject the botulinum toxin into specific muscles. The number of injections depends on your condition.
How do I prepare for chemodenervation?
Chemodenervation requires minimal preparation. Before the procedure, you might need to stop taking certain medications, especially those that increase the risk of bleeding. Your doctor may also provide personalized instructions based on your conditions.
What can I expect after chemodenervation?
After chemodenervation, you may experience some bruising or pain in the injection area. In most cases, you’ll see results in about 2 weeks.
Chemodenervation treatments are botulinum toxin injections. It’s the same as cosmetic Botox injections, but it’s used for medical conditions. It works by reducing activity in overactive muscles.
In general, the procedure is used to treat conditions like overactive bladder, dystonia, hemifacial spasm, anal fissure, strabismus, tremors, and blepharospasm. It may also be used to manage chronic migraine and hyperhidrosis.
The results usually last 3 to 6 months, but the exact time depends on the person and condition. Your doctor can let you know if you’re a good candidate for the procedure.