What's it Like: To get Botox injections

This is part of a continuing series of articles called “What's it Like?” in which The Oklahoman explains common medical procedures people may elect to participate in or be required to undergo. This week's topic: What's it like to get Botox injections?
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: July 15, 2012

Why get Botox injections?

Botox is a drug that's widely known for its cosmetic benefits, but it also has several medical uses. Botox is the name of the drug used for medical conditions while Botox Cosmetic is used when treating wrinkles.

The drug is made from a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, the same toxin that causes botulism.

People might get Botox injections to temporarily remove facial wrinkles, such as crow's feet, forehead lines, frown lines between eyebrows or neck lines. Botox also can relieve hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, in their underarms. People who have cervical dystonia might seek out Botox to treat severe neck and shoulder muscle contractions. Uncontrollable blinking and misaligned eyes, or crossed eyes, can sometimes be treated using Botox. Botox also can help relieve certain types of headaches. Botox generally doesn't help relieve wrinkles caused by sun damage.

Botox works by blocking nerve signals to the muscles where it's injected, keeping the muscles from contracting. This causes targeted paralysis of the muscles that are injected. This means that muscles causing wrinkles will relax, and the wrinkles will smooth out. This also means that muscles pulling one eye too far in one direction relax, relieving symptoms of a lazy eye.

One of the things to keep in mind when considering Botox injections is cost. You should check with your insurance provider about whether Botox is covered.

When choosing a doctor to perform your injections, you should check the physician's credentials. You could check to see whether a doctor is a member of any professional organizations. You can also check to see if the doctor has been disciplined in Oklahoma by checking on the Oklahoma Medical Board's website. You can also ask your doctor if he or she is board-certified.

What happens when you get Botox injections?

Before getting Botox injections, you likely will go through a medical evaluation at your doctor's office. This likely will take longer than getting the injections. You should make sure to choose a doctor who will be thorough in finding out your medical history and listening to your concerns.

Your doctor might discuss how many units he or she will use. Your doctor also might discuss your expectations and what Botox can and can't do.

Once your evaluation is complete, the doctor will prepare the Botox. The needles used to insert the Botox are generally small. The injections are usually quick.

The areas where you need to be injected will vary from person to person. It could be as few as five or as many as 15. The area where you're injected and the number of injections you get will also depend on your doctor's experience and preference.

If you receive 15 injections, that doesn't mean you received 15 units. A unit can be spread out among injection sites.

Once you're ready, the doctor will inject Botox into a relatively low number of muscle fibers. Botox works by temporarily weakening or paralyzing a muscle. When a doctor injects the Botox, the muscle at the injection site will become inactivated and atrophy.

The thickness of your skin, the location where the Botox is being injected and the muscle being targeted are all factors that affect how much Botox will be injected. If you're receiving Botox injections for medical reasons, you might need a higher dose than someone who is using Botox to get rid of wrinkles. For example, someone being treated for cerebral palsy generally will receive a higher dose than a person who wants to temporarily get rid of forehead wrinkles.

To treat excessive sweating, your doctor will inject Botox underneath your arms.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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