Updated 24 April 2014

4 unexpected uses for botox

Among new potential applications for botox are writer’s cramp, beating the blues, urination problems among older men, and excessive sweating.

As if it wasn’t enough that it holds wrinkles at bay, the “cosmetic” superhero, botox, turns out to have a whole host of other applications:

Writer’s cramp
Writer's cramp is a condition that causes involuntary muscle contractions of the fingers, hand or arm while one is writing or performing other manual tasks. It reportedly affects between 0,03 and 0.07 percent of the world’s population, and in a quarter of those cases, the condition affects both hands.

The Department of Neurology at the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam has released a study said to provide evidence for the beneficial effect of botox on this condition. There is, however, some controversy about the findings – the study was relatively small, involving only 40 people, and critics say it is not safe to make generalisations.

Beats the blues
Another small but promising study has found that botox injections improved the symptoms of 10 patients with depression. Of the patients in the study, nine recovered from their depressive symptoms, and the other patient, who had bipolar disorder, experienced an improvement in mood, the Washington Post reported.

The study conducted by Washington dermatologist Dr Eric Finzi said, however, that a larger study needs to be conducted before any conclusions can be made about a link between botox treatments and improved depressive symptoms.

"My theory on why this works is there is a feedback between the muscles of facial expression and the brain,” Finzi said. "With yoga, you focus on your breathing, and it has an effect on your mind. My hypothesis is the facial muscles... have an effect on depression."

Relaxes the prostate
More than half of all men over the age of 60, and 80% by age 80, have enlarged prostates. Symptoms include more frequent urination, urinary tract infections, the inability to completely empty the bladder and, in severe cases, eventual damage to the bladder and kidneys.

The August 2006 issue of the journal Urology reported that a team of Italian physicians headed by Dr Giorgio Maria from the University Hospital Agostino Gemelli in Rome, have found that an injection of botox into the prostate can relieve some of these symptoms. The botox appears to shrink the prostrate.

Subsequent studies in Taiwan and at the University of Pittsburgh in the United States have confirmed these findings – the US study said 80% of patients were able to completely empty their bladders within a week to one month after they received the injection. This was because the botox also caused the prostate gland to relax, which reduced pressure on the urethra, the researchers said.

Visit the Prostate Centre for more information.

There is a condition known as hyperhydrosis, which results in sweating that exceeds the normal amount required to maintain a consistent body temperature. It’s a fairly common disorder, and sufferers produce up to four times the sweat of average people, sweating even during the dead of winter. It’s an inconvenient and embarrassing condition which has, in the past, been able to be alleviated only by surgery.

“If I stand next to someone I fancy, I sweat. If I sit in a meeting where I know I’m going to have to present something or be put on the spot, I sweat. If I’m hot, I sweat. If I walk up the stairs, or get a tetchy email, or think about something that upsets me, I sweat.”

Jeanine*, a journalist in her mid-thirties, says she wears black at all times because it doesn’t show sweat rings. “It’s a real problem,” she says.

Interim data from a three-year study involving 193 patients, found that repeated treatment with botox for severe underarm sweating significantly reduced the amount of sweat produced. The research, conducted at the St Louis University School of Medicine, was reported by HealthDay News.

The only real problem for sufferers is that fairly large amounts of botox need to be used, and the effect wears off within months, making this a short-term and an expensive solution.

*Name has been changed

(Robyn von Geusau, Health24, updated July 2012)

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