Botox: Effective Treatment for Dystonia and Muscle Spasm
Botox (botulinum toxin Type A) has been available in the United States for clinical use since 1989. At that time it was approved by the FDA for treatment of eye and facial muscle spasm disorders, blepharospasm and hemifacial spasm respectively. Then in 2000 the FDA approved Myobloc (botulinum toxin Type B) for treatment of cervical dystonia, a condition of involuntary neck muscle spasm. The dystonias, as a class of muscle spasm disorders, are characterized by involuntary muscle spasms involving the muscles in the neck, face and extremities. The cause of the majority of these conditions is unknown. In some individuals, spasticity (tight muscles which cannot be relaxed, a form of dystonia) can result from stroke, traumatic brain or spinal cord injury or cerebral palsy.
Prior to the use of Botox, it was very difficult to treat muscle spasm disorders. Medications had side effects and surgery had limited benefit associated with the risk of complications. Botox opened an entirely new avenue to treat spasticity. The drug works by causing a chemical relaxation of muscles that are injected. Botox is highly selective in that it remains in the muscles that it is injected into. Patients with cervical dystonia have difficulty with their head pulling to one side of the other. They may also have their head pulling backward or forward. Not only is this condition painful, it also causes patients to have functional difficulty with activities such as driving, playing sports or even eating. In patients with limb dystonia, there is involuntary spasm of an arm, leg or both. This can cause difficulty with dressing, walking or even personal hygiene (if their hand is fisted up.) Botox (or Myobloc) can provide excellent relief of these symptoms thereby improving patients’ quality of life. For patients with severe muscle spasticity from stroke, Botox provides relief of the tight muscles allowing for greater ease in certain activities. It is important to note that Botox (or Myobloc) will not restore function of any limb affected by the stroke. What the treatment will do is provide increased comfort due to reducing pain from spasm and allow for improved ease in doing some daily activities.
Blepharospasm is characterized by involuntary blinking which can result in forced eye closure and functional blindness. Affected individuals may have difficulty driving or watching a movie because of this. Botox has been shown to be the single most effective treatment for this condition. Of all the muscle conditions treated with Botox, none respond as well as those patients affected with hemifacial spasm. This condition affects one side of the face and is characterized by spasm the facial muscles on that side. This can also result in a degree of functional blindness. While most conditions treated with Botox (or Myobloc) have a therapeutic effect for 2-3 months before requiring retreatment, patients with hemifacial spasm may not need retreatment for anywhere from 3-6 months.
For any patient considering receiving Botox or Myobloc, it is important to see a physician familiar with diagnosing and treating these uncommon movement disorders. These individuals are familiar with administration of Botox or Myobloc which will help to obtain optimum results from each treatment