Is Botox Too Dangerous?

Botox stands for "Clostridium botulinum type A neurotoxin complex," and is after plutonium, the most potent poison known to humans.

In 1970, Alan Scott, a San Francisco ophthalmologist, first discovered the ability of botulinum toxin to relax certain muscles. Soon enough scientists realized that it could be used in cosmetology, and since then “beauty injections” have become one of the most popular anti-wrinkle weapon.

Botox is made from part of the same family of poisons as botulism, a common cause of fatal food poisoning. Botox is potent enough to potentially kill anybody. However, if it is used under controlled doses, it is usually safe.

However, in some cases, the toxin has spread to other parts of the body with serious consequences, such as paralysis of respiratory muscles and difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), the latter possibly leading to food or liquids entering the respiratory tract and lungs, causing aspiration pneumonia. Unfortunately, some have even died from the usage of botox.

“Nobody should be dying from injected botulinum toxin, Educating physicians and patients about what adverse symptoms to look for and when to seek immediate medical attention will save lives,” says Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group

The FDA has approved the use of botulinum toxin for a limited number of “therapeutic” conditions, including uncontrollable neck and shoulder muscle contractions, crossed eyes, spasmodic blinking of the eyes and excessive underarm sweating. The only approved cosmetic use is for temporary smoothing of wrinkles between the eyebrows. Most cosmetic uses of botulinum toxin are unapproved.

Experts warn that there are no long-term studies of side-effects, leading to fears that "Botox addicts" could be running unknown health risks.


These are dangers from both therapeutic and cosmetic uses of botox.

-A scientific study on rats suggests that botox may be able to move from the skin into the brain, degrading proteins and acting on nerves.
The study, which was headed up by Matteo Caleo of the Italian National Research Council’s Institute of Neuroscience, is said to show for the first time that the botulinum toxin may affect the brain. [ARTICLE]

-Recently released figures show that botox has been linked to nearly 30 deaths in Europe. By August 2007, the European Medicines Agency had received more than 600 reports of negative effects linked to treatment with botox. In 28 of these cases the patient died. European officials warn Botox may be harmful. The announcement comes just months after a warning from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that botox can cause serious side effects. The FDA issued the warning after receiving reports that botox had been associated with serious systemic adverse reactions, including respiratory compromise and death.

-FDA data found that makers of the drug have reported 180 U.S. cases of people developing sometimes life-threatening conditions after receiving injections, including 16 deaths; four of the deaths occurred in children less than 18 years of age. The FDA data come from voluntary reports, which have been estimated to account for only 10 percent of actual cases.

-FDA data found that between Nov. 1, 1997, and Dec. 31, 2006, there were 658 reported cases of people suffering adverse effects from injections of botulinum toxin. Of these, 180 were associated with aspiration (fluid in the lungs), dysphagia and/or pneumonia; 87 required hospitalization. In fact, cases of dysphagia were common in pre-approval studies of botulinum toxin for therapeutic uses. Although most cases were mild, severe cases did occur, even with the limited number of people exposed in these studies.

-Allergan, the maker of botox, is accused of hiding deaths from the FDA [MORE]

-Botox can result in death due to respiratory failure, even when used in low doses due to its ability to travel far from the place of injection. Botox can have the adverse effect of spreading to other parts of the body which could cause muscle weakness, swallowing difficulties, pneumonia, speech disorders and breathing problems.

-In a recent study of women undergoing cosmetic treatment with Botox, researchers found that the treatment, which blocks facial nerve impulses, seemed to slow the ability to comprehend emotional language. [MORE]

-Cerebral palsy patients can experience botox side effects such as urinary incontinence, ear infections, tingling and rashes.

-One of the most horrific botox side effects is the loss of the ability to swallow, leading to a slow death of starvation and dehydration. Many hundreds of life-threatening botox complications have been reported recently in the US alone.

-Off-label botox use such as to treat limb spasticity has lead to a FDA warning about its possible botox harmful side effects.

-Other, more benign and common side effects of botox are droopy eyelids, respiratory infection, nausea, headaches, flu-like symptoms and bruising at the treatment site. The rarest botox side effect symptoms are muscle weakness, facial pain and redness at the injection site.

-Women who use botox often report that they experience adverse effects to the treatment, particularly when they massage the injected area. Massaging the area apparently moves the toxin around the body and can cause headaches and other side effects such as droopy eyelids and more.

Bottom Line

Like most other cosmetic rejuvenation procedures, botulinum toxin type A (Botox) injections carry certain risks.

Although, it appears botox has a better risk-to-benefit profile than the majority of cosmetic procedures on the market. Still, serious complications are possible albeit rare. Most (but not all) serious botox-related complications occur in individuals with neurological disorders, the elderly and young children. The site of injection also seems to impact the risk. Such complications appear to be least likely in healthy adults treated for facial wrinkle reduction by experienced physicians.

Some people feel that even a small risk of serious adverse reactions is unacceptable in a procedure that serves cosmetic purposes. Ultimately, receiving botox is a matter of personal choice. However, such choice should be a well-informed one.


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  1. I think that if botox is performed by an experienced physician the risk of side effects to appear is very low.
    For mine I chose the best botox Ottawa clinic where they have some of the best doctors in the area. The procedure was painless and the result exactly as I expected....
    So choose the right doctor if you want to get safe botox.

  2. Admin:
    Avril, thank you for your comment!:)

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